Losing the Red Cross Would Be the Real Disaster

January 23, 2020

Red cross(Ed note: this post originally was published on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts.) 

As a disaster researcher and scholar of nonprofit management, I've followed the (well publicized) travails and (hardly publicized) successes of the American Red Cross over the years.

I've met its national staff at research conferences and local staff at state and county emergency management meetings, where I've served on the board of my local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). I participated with hundreds of other invited experts in the governance audit that resulted in the "American National Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007." I’ve monitored the commentary after a ProPublica/National Public Radio exposé of the Red Cross appeared last week. And based on my observations, I have developed a healthy respect and sympathy for the Red Cross.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

There's no disputing the fact that the public needs better results from the Red Cross. The organization has been essential to our welfare since the day it was chartered by Congress to be our national disaster response agency — primus inter pares among hundreds of agencies known collectively as voluntary organizations active in disaster. In fact, the Red Cross predates the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) by seventy-nine years.

Congress has entrusted a good part of disaster-related mass care and sheltering to the Red Cross. Somewhat less rationally, Congress imposed this public mandate on the Red Cross without much aid; the agency is expected to meet our nation's disaster relief needs largely through the philanthropic generosity of Americans.

Further complicating matters, the Red Cross has been plagued for years by leadership issues — issues that aren't easy to resolve because they are rooted in a number of larger, systemic problems:

Greater forces of nature. Climate change makes it harder for all disaster relief agencies to achieve their mission. In the ProPublica/NPR story, a Red Cross executive observes the challenge of "scaling up" for Sandy, a storm that covered an area half the size of Europe. The organization's inability to do that was due to climate change, not internal organizational problems. In 2005, disaster relief agencies reached the same conclusion when they reported that the impact of Hurricanes Rita and Katrina was many times larger than their capacity to deal with back-to-back disasters. The lesson is clear: As disasters get larger and more complex, we all have to work together to scale our disaster-response capacity.

Shortage of experienced staff. An increase in "superstorms" demands better frontline staff. However, internal reorganizations and massive layoffs triggered by a drop in donations have increased turnover and demoralized staff at the Red Cross. In my county last week, the national Red Cross laid off three of its four paid staff, including one of the state's most experienced disaster response professionals. That trend must be reversed. This is a unique and challenging profession. There are no easy substitutes. Disaster responders are trained to be flexible and resourceful because, as they often point out, every disaster is unique. Thus, disaster researchers and other observers note the challenge of getting it right every time. It takes training and experience, which depends, in turn, on stable, consistent funding to keep high-quality, experienced chapter staff (one of the Red Cross's most important assets) on the front lines.

National leaders at odds with grassroots base. The Red Cross traditionally has had a strong internal culture that fosters staff commitment ("lifers"). Any organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, that finds itself at odds with its grassroots base is in trouble. There's no denying the impact on morale of the systemic leadership problems at the Red Cross, but they go much further back than the current CEO's tenure. Before Gail McGovern was hired, the Red Cross cycled through more than a half dozen CEOs and interim CEOs in as many years. Friction between national and chapter staff isn't new, and it's clear that, to some degree, the organization's national leadership has been in denial about it. The solution is for the national board to recognize its responsibility to improve the organization's culture and to invest in the base. The board began that process with a governance restructuring six years ago and has followed up with a healthy investment in inter-organizational collaboration and public transparency initiatives. The tone is changing, and I am encouraged by that fact. But more needs to be done.

Shirking our collective responsibility to be prepared. Unfortunately, public criticism of the Red Cross has not been accompanied by an equally vigorous public discussion of our responsibility as citizens to prepare ourselves in advance. Ask any emergency responder what he or she wants from us, and you'll get the same answer: "Make a plan and assemble a kit. We can help you best when you help yourself." One of the most active Red Cross campaigns is about family and workplace emergency preparedness (see also FEMA's excellent resources at www.ready.gov).

I'm a scholar but also a citizen. From a rational point of view, the most dangerous outcome of the ProPublica/NPR story would be a second "disaster" in the form of an escalating public mistrust of the Red Cross, resulting in fewer donations and an even weaker paid and volunteer force that is demoralized by the public's lack of understanding about the good work they do every day. Increased turnover will worsen the kind of staffing issues the organization faces. More political and media scrutiny is likely to result in more, not less, questionable decision making at the top (e.g., diverting assets for public relations junkets).

So what can we do? First, get yourself prepared. Second, be generous. This is not the time to withdraw support from the Red Cross. The organization operates like an army but on exponentially less funding. McGovern runs a $3.5 billion enterprise on a fraction of the salary of a college football coach. And she does it with largely volunteer (albeit well-trained) labor. Disaster agency budgets go through "feast" or "famine" periods. Try holding on to a good workforce when faced with that kind of budget uncertainty. An operation with twenty-nine thousand staff and four hundred thousand volunteers needs stable funding if its job is to deploy anywhere in the United States after any disaster and help any citizen, regardless of age, disability, creed, or race, who needs it.

Local Red Cross employees are not only highly respected, they are some of the hardest-working people I know. Sit in an emergency planning meeting with them in any local community, and they will have their phones/radios on, ready to leave for a house fire, flood, ice storm, or tornado on a moment’s notice. Some day that house might be yours.

The Red Cross should be held accountable for problems of its own making. We should hold ourselves accountable for the rest.

Headshot_beth_gazleyBeth Gazley is associate vice provost for faculty and academic affairs at Indiana University's Paul H. O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. This post was first published here on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts. 

Marketing Tech for Nonprofits: A Refresher Course for 2020

January 20, 2020

SocialNetworkIconsTeaserAs we start a new year, marketing has never been more important for nonprofits. And when it comes to growing and expanding your audience, your nonprofit needs the right digital marketing strategy if wants to make progress.

Unfortunately, too many nonprofits struggle to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts c and often it's because those efforts are an incoherent, unfocused mess. An effective digital marketing strategy should accomplish some, if not all, of the following:

  • reach new audiences that support your mission
  • convert more website visitors and/or supporters into donors
  • convince your existing donors to continue their support
  • support other goals such as boosting registrations, securing recurring donations, and obtaining signatures for petitions

Perhaps most importantly, your digital marketing strategy should aim to "make your donor an action hero" (as fundraising consultant Claire Axelrad puts it) by centering his or her experience in your organization's broader work. Donor- and constituent-centric messaging can be extremely effective in motivating support and keeping audiences engaged with your mission. And the best way to ensure it does is to have a clear game plan at the start of the year and/or before each campaign is launched.

Ready to get started? Let's begin with a quick review of some of the marketing tools at your disposal and then look at hot they fit together.

Types of Marketing Vehicles and Platforms

Here's a quick overview of the different categories of digital marketing vehicles and tools at your nonprofit's disposal:

Your organization's website. Your organization's site is one of your most important marketing assets, so you need to make sure it's returning value each and every week. To be effective, a site needs to serve as an anchor or central hub for your marketing campaigns (more on this later), so if it could use a design refresh or update or is in need of back-end technology upgrades, now is the time to act. Before you do, check out our guide to nonprofit Web design projects to learn more about what you can expect from the process.

Email and direct marketing. Email continues to be one of the most effective ways to market your nonprofit to supporters, but too many organizations get it wrong. Generic email blasts to any and everyone simply aren't an effective way to engage supporters, let alone motivate them to give. Focus, instead, on building your email lists, segmenting them into groups, and creating automated email streams based on your campaign's specific goals. We also include direct mail in this category, as it can be extremely effective when backed up with good data and the right strategies.

Social tools. This category includes social media posts and platforms, peer-to-peer fundraising tools, and advocacy software. All can be great for growing your audience, especially when you port your messaging to mobile. Mobile advocacy tools, in particular, are a great way to supercharge your campaigns, meet supporters where they live, and provide them with new ways to take action to advance your mission.

Online marketing tools and techniques. This category includes things like online advertisements and search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. In terms of online advertising, your nonprofit's best bet is to check out Google AdWords, which the tech giant offers at no charge to eligible nonprofits. (For an overview of AdWords and the Google grants that nonprofits can use to underwrite them, click here.) SEO strategies require more back-end work on your site and site content, but when implemented properly they can significantly boost your organization's online visibility.

Although the categories above include the most important digital marketing tools and vehicles, you’ll get the biggest band for your buck by implementing two or more of them in combination. As we always tell clients, digital marketing works best — and the return on investment is greatest — when your tech and marketing actively support one another.

Tying Your Tools Together in a Multi-Channel Campaign

A multi-channel marketing campaign is a strategic marketing effort that pulls together a number of  different vehicles and tools.

The idea is to use each vehicle or tool to target your audience in a different way, with the aim of driving all that traffic to a central hub where visitors are encouraged to complete a "target action" such as:

  • making a donation
  • signing up for a newsletter or other communications
  • registering for an event
  • creating a peer-to-peer fundraising page

The target action is the end-goal of any multi-channel campaign. Think of it this way: What concrete action do you want people to take after they've engaged with your marketing materials? 

Without concrete goals and target actions, it's harder to focus your marketing efforts and keep your audiences engaged. Marketsmart's guide to engagement fundraising calls this unfocused, usually ineffective approach "spraying and praying." If you’re focusing on donor acquisition and cultivation, for instance, you definitely want to avoid this approach.

In other words, a multichannel marketing strategy is effective only if you keep your goals and target actions centered in your messaging. Let’s look at some of the steps in the process:

Sample Multichannel Marketing Campaign

For this example, imagine you represent an animal rescue organization in the Northeast. Your upcoming campaign is all about reaching new donors across the region, building your base of support to help fund ongoing operations, and expanding the audience for future campaigns. You want the campaign to be as engaging as possible, knowing that giving to your annual fund might not be as exciting for some donors.

First, set a specific goal — for example, secure x number of individual donations from new supporters during the campaign.

Setting a concrete KPI like the above gives you a stable reference point for evaluating the campaign’s progress once it's under way. You'll also want to map out a timeline for your campaign based on the parameters of your broader fundraising efforts.

Next, review your marketing toolkit and figure out what else you’ll need to do to set up a multichannel campaign in support of your goals:

  • Website. Create a landing page featuring an embedded donation form that can serve as the central hub for the campaign. All your other vehicles and channels should direct traffic to this page, with the goal of converting new visitors into donors.
  • Social media accounts. Post regular updates about the campaign to your social media channels, making sure to always include a link to the campaign landing page. Create a series of contests and viral challenges that encourage users to share your posts — this is how most of your new supporters will learn about you. Be sure to link your social media posts to the main campaign page, where your social media followers can learn more about your organization and make a donation.
  • Email. With an integrated email solution, you can segment your supporters into different groups and customize marketing messages for each group. For instance, you might want to send one kind of message to lapsed donors and another to non-donor email subscribers, or create different messages to share a campaign update, promote a new blog post or video, or make a direct appeal for support.
  • Digital ads. Use online ads to target the audiences most likely to be interested in your campaign. For our animal rescue organization, a local news site or pet store website might be a smart choice. Google offers advanced tools designed to make it easier to target different audience groups.
  • Google AdWords. With your AdWords grant, you can craft an ad that will appear at the top of Google search pages for keywords likely to deliver potential supporters. Keywords like "pet rescue Massachusetts" or "Northeast animal shelter" might be good choices. And again, be sure to link your AdWords ad directly to your campaign landing page.
  • Search engine optimization. For SEO, focus on creating and writing great content for your organization’s website that is targeted to specific keywords. An informative blog post about "New York animal cruelty laws," for example, would be of interest to readers likely to support your organization. Well-designed SEO strategies can go a long way to raise the visibility of your organization and drive more visitors to your site over the long run.

Don't forget to link your marketing channels so that they support one another. Ask your email subscribers to follow your organization on Instagram or Facebook, or create social media posts that encourage followers to click through to your website’s blog to learn more about a campaign or check out a video, then use that post to drive readers to your campaign's donation page.

No matter how you end up structuring your campaign, don’t forget that the key to success is to get potential supporters to engage with your content and complete a target action. Use your digital content to engage, excite, and connect with potential supporters, and then drive them to your donation page. With the right integrations, multiple marketing channels can also help you capture a ton of digital engagement data that you can use to inform future campaigns and projects!

The Importance of Tech Integrations

Integrating tools means creating a connection between different software applications that allows for the free flow of data. This is especially important when it comes to digital marketing, insofar as the kind of data generated by digital tools and channels makes it easier to track your results, measure audience engagement, and analyze performance over time.

In the example above, the animal rescue organization would want, at a minimum, to integrate its CRM or database with its donation page and email client. This will allow it to easily create segmented mailing lists and track engagement rates. An integrated donation tool also will automatically save all the transaction data generated by the donation page and, ideally, connect that information to an existing donor profile (if the donor has engaged with the organization in the past).

This kind of integration explains much of the appeal of a platform like Salesforce, where integrated apps allow data to flow between a central database and various donor engagement tools. (Check out Double the Donation's reviews for some examples of Salesforce apps for nonprofits.)

Again, the idea is that easy access to your engagement data enables you to make better decisions around how to engage your supporters. No more guessing (in theory, at least)!

Digital marketing has never been more important. Increasing your visibility online in 2020 is key to expanding your online footprint and building a solid foundation on which to grow. The "right" strategies, tools, and content will keep your existing supporters engaged with your mission — which is critical for long-term donor retention and organizational sustainability — and make it easier to attract new supporters and volunteers.

Alas, too many organizations take a rather haphazard approach to digital marketing and don't even realize what they may be missing out on. Don’t be that organization! Take some time this month to review your marketing efforts and, if you don’t already have one, determine what you need to develop a digital multichannel strategy. We think it'll be the smartest investment you ever make. Best of luck!

Headshot_carl_diesing_for_philantopicCarl Diesing is co-founder and managing director of DNL OmniMedia, where he works with nonprofits to strengthen their fundraising and build their capacity to drive social change.

Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

Sykes_foundation_whole_familyIndividuals are whole people made up of a rich mix of physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual parts. Individuals exist within families, and families are the heart of our communities. In many ways, working families earning low wages are the backbone of our country, working the jobs that keep America running.

But many American families are struggling. Despite an uptick in the economy, more than 8.5 million children currently live in poverty, and they are often concentrated in neighborhoods where at least a third of all families live in poverty. Others are just a paycheck away from falling into poverty. For these families, a simple change in circumstance for a family member — a reduction in working hours, an illness, even the need for a car repair — affects the entire family's long-term well-being.

At Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we collaborate with families, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and others to advance family well-being through a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach. Such an approach addresses challenges through the lens of whole people living in intact families, equipping children and the adults in their lives with the tools to collectively set and achieve goals, strengthen relationships with each other, and establish the stability of the family unit so that every member is able to reach his or her full potential.

In our work every day, we see the many meaningful ways in which a whole family approach benefits families and creates opportunities for service organizations to reach vulnerable populations, scale their work, and fulfill their missions. Here are five things your agency can do to shape its work in ways that will benefit families and support family members as they define, create, and realize the futures of which they dream.

1. Recognize the multi-faceted nature of human aspirations. Issues affecting family well-being such as economic stability, educational success, housing security, and health all overlap and impact one another. For instance, parents may notice that the financial challenges they struggle with are affecting their performance at work, their relationships with each other, and their children's school performance. Developing a plan to improve a family's financial stability in such a scenario must also factor in how parents or caregivers manage their careers, relationships, and time spent with their children. The tools and services designed to support families must look at parents and caregivers holistically, as both individuals and as members of a family.

2. Be intentional about working with every member of the family. Outdated models of service provision that require, say, a constituent to be an unmarried female or have an income that falls below a certain threshold tend to result in a crisis-oriented approach to service delivery. Too often with these models, a family doesn't qualify for help unless it is coming apart or has fallen into poverty. But because families are comprised of individuals, individual family members' challenges (and successes) are often a function of the dynamics in the larger unit. When we encourage members of a family to work together to support each other’s goals, we are helping to strengthen the bonds within the family and, in doing so, facilitating long-term family stability before a family falls into crisis.

3. Tailor services and support to families' goals. After working with families to establish goals, service providers should work together to equip each family with the tools and social supports needed to reach those goals. But remember, an approach to service provision that works well for one family may not work for a different family. Families know themselves and what they hope to achieve better than anyone else, which means service providers need to listen to families if they hope to effectively support those families as they work toward their goals. Again, when families are encouraged to plan their own future, they are more invested in the steps needed to get there.

4. Prioritize relationships between family members to create lasting results. Young people perform better in school and later in life when they have a reliable network of people in their lives — peers, family members, teachers, coaches, mentors — whom they can tap for advice and support. Our work has shown this is also true for families. For example, in interviews we conducted with formerly incarcerated women, the women often stressed the pivotal role of relationships with members of their extended families in helping them navigate the transition from incarceration back into society, pursue college or a credential, and persist in the face of challenges and hardship. As they succeeded and rebuilt their lives, many of the women also became a source of social capital in their families and communities. The same is true of a family we worked with that wanted to develop a healthier lifestyle. Once goals had been established and family members had agreed to them, family members held each other accountable for achieving them, providing support and encouragement to each other along the way. And once family members started to see improvement in their own health, they decided to give back some of what they had been given by serving as mentors for other families with similar aspirations. Bottom line: Social capital is a resource that grows.

5. Emphasize collaboration. In our work, we've seen how separate funding streams for service providers tend to create a fragmented approach to the provision of services that is not only detrimental to providers but also weakens families. Whether related to health care, housing, or school, families often have to travel from location to location to receive needed services. This can put a heavy and sometimes insurmountable burden on people who work full-time, or who face transportation or language barriers, preventing them from seeking support. What's more, the advice they receive often is not coordinated and may even conflict with the advice received from another agency, be impractical, or just plain overwhelm them.

At the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we believe strongly in the value of formal, collaborative partnerships among service providers that support a whole family approach and encourage multiple agencies to come together to provide a full spectrum of services designed to move families closer to their goals. In such a model, agencies meet regularly to manage and modify plans, share data, and synchronize their efforts to better serve families. They also work together to measure behavioral outcomes for the adults and children they serve — a crucial component of any whole family approach. Instead of operating individually, service providers in a collaboration are freed from seeing one another as competitors and instead value each other as teammates who share resources, discuss and set priorities, and accomplish goals together. Indeed, preliminary evidence shows that the stronger the collaboration between service providers, the greater the chances their collective efforts will lead to family success.

Frances_sykes_marjorie_simsWhole family approaches have demonstrated that families living in poverty can succeed despite the obstacles they face. Organizations that adopt such an approach can expect to make a bigger, more meaningful difference in their communities. To do so, however, service providers, government agencies, and funders must work collaboratively — with one another and the families they are trying to support. It's the best way to advance our respective missions and create lasting change for the communities we serve.

Frances Sykes is the president of the Pascale Sykes Foundation and Marjorie Sims is the managing director of Ascend at the Aspen Institute.

Reimagining Power Dynamics From Within: How Foundations Can Support Child and Youth Participation

January 16, 2020

Youth_climate_activists_350orgInvolving children and young people in our work — as grantees, consultants, researchers, and/or key informants — helps support their right to shape how the issues that affect their lives are addressed and makes our work as funders more impactful. Philanthropies should consider the right to participation — a key right in democracies — an important aspect of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

The climate movement, for instance, has been very successful in drawing critical attention to the power of children and young people to organize and pressure governments to take action on an issue of urgent concern to them. Other examples include mobilizing support for the Sustainable Development Goals, gun violence prevention, and the rights of working children.

If, as funders, we are committed to supporting young climate activists at the local, national, and international levels, we also need to create spaces within our organizations for them to influence our thinking and ways of working. At the Open Society Foundations, the Youth Exchange team strategy refers to this as "modeling behavior," a form of "prefigurative politics": creating, here and now, in our organizational practices, the change we want to see more generally in society. While many in the philanthropic space already support young activists and guidelines already exist as to how to provide financial and non-financial support to child and youth organizers and child- and youth-led organizations, there are many others who wonder how they can do that.

The Open Society Youth Exchange team thought the start of a new year would be a good time to share some best practices — drawn from our own experiences as well as literature in the field — with respect to engaging children and young people in donor spaces and conversations and giving them the space to tell us how best to support their movements generally and the climate movement more specifically.

While recognizing that young leaders can benefit from specific types of support, we would emphasize that it is important to help create a broad base of support that transcends constituencies, movements, and generations. In addition, some of the recommendations shared below to support child and youth participation can also be made for or adapted to other groups, who may also experience similar barriers.

Nine Basic Requirements for Child and Youth Participation

To create effective and sustained participation, funders need to move away from one-off consultations and engage children and young people in ongoing processes and governance structures. Those who are in charge of organizing opportunities for children and young people as part of a strategic planning process, convening, or less formal conversation can use the "nine basic requirements for effective and ethical participation" outlined by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (General Comment no. 12) on "the right of the child to be heard." These basic requirements are the gold standard for youth and child participation and can help funders plan and monitor participation processes. According to the principles, participation should be transparent and informative, voluntary, respectful, relevant, child-friendly, inclusive, supported by training, safe and sensitive to risk, and accountable.

The power of personality is evident in the youth climate movement, in which inspiring young problem-solvers have emerged as highly visible and effective leaders. But when inviting children and young people to join conversations, it is important to look beyond charisma to make sure they legitimately represent their constituencies and are already situated within strong networks. The best approach, we have found, is to ask network leaders to nominate the individuals who will represent them. It's also important to support platforms that help child and youth representatives from different groups connect with one another and build trust. The latter can take time, so it's important to build some extra time into your planning.

To identify representatives who are most likely to be effective, network leaders must have a clear understanding of the aims, nature, and scope of the engagement: Are children and young people being invited to share their views on an issue area in which the foundation as a whole would like to engage? Are they being asked to help shape something more specific, like a portfolio of work? Are they being asked to comment on the best tools for supporting the movement (e.g., grantmaking, fellowships, or advocacy)? Funders need to be clear and share details about the role that children and young participants are likely to play.

Participation must be transparent, informative, and relevant. It is acceptable, for example, to tell participants that what they have to say will be considered, but that it will be considered in the context of other conversations. It is not acceptable to invite children and young people to the table without having any intention to act upon their ideas and suggestions.

Participation must be inclusive. Funders must include young activists from diverse backgrounds, with an additional focus on groups that have experienced various forms of discrimination. "Youth" is a large and heterogeneous demographic. Funders need to recognize that layered and intersecting identities are at play in everyone's life and that "young" is only one identity, age only one indicator. For many young people, age does not even register among the aspects of identity they consider most important (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation). We therefore feel that the "youth lens" needs to be combined with additional lenses to create the necessary conditions for meaningful engagement. For example, children and youth from Indigenous communities and from the Global South should be front and center, since they are the cohorts most likely to be affected by the climate crisis. When engaging young people in the United States, funders need to remember the importance of engaging young activists of color, including those with a disability. Disability inclusion reinforces the message that spaces in which conversations take place are accessible for all participants. We also make a point of using the phrase "child and youth participation" to highlight the importance of including those who are younger — not least because the climate movement is full of very young organizers, organizers who may feel they are being ignored when only the word "youth" is used.

If we want to include young people in meaningful and respectful ways, we need to make adjustments to our own processes. Ideally, that should begin with the involvement of young people as early in the process as possible. It's not enough to give them a seat at the table; we need to make sure they are involved in setting up the table and are taking part in the journey from the very start. At the same time, it also means being clear that young participants have the choice to limit or step away from their responsibilities, as participation always needs to be voluntary.

Participation should be respectful, relevant, and take into consideration children's and young people's own priorities and interests as well as their existing commitments to study, work, and free time. This may require funders to be ready to organize meetings during "after-school" evening or weekend hours. It may also necessitate efforts to inform and get permission and support from parents and caregivers.

Participation should be youth- and child-friendly and respectful of the skills, experiences, and competencies of young people. Respect also needs to be shown in the scheduling of the convening itself and any preparation work. By involving children and young people in the early stages of planning, tasks and planning sessions can be made more participatory, allowing everyone to engage to their maximum potential. During the planning process, funders should also ask young people to identify in advance which sessions they feel most equipped or excited to contribute to, rather than assuming they will be interested in and available to attend every session. While some young activists are experienced public speakers, all participants should always be given the support and tools they need to feel comfortable when faced with new situations and public responsibilities. For instance, the young people who do choose to speak at convenings almost always appreciate being shown around the venue beforehand so they can familiarize themselves with the space — a very simple yet important recommendation. And, of course, when inviting children and young people to be part of our processes or conversations, we always need to be mindful of the inherent power dynamics at play, due not only to differences in age but also to our status as donors.

For full-day meetings, agendas can be designed to highlight sessions that are more "participatory." Depending on the intended outputs of the convening (e.g., a summary or action document prepared by participant groups), it can be helpful to connect with young people in advance to ask them how they might best contribute. In some situations, young people may prefer to present their ideas or stories in creative visual ways. We need to schedule time for those visuals to be shared and commented on by all participants, rather than limiting the discussion to a few minutes during a break.

Because their role is crucial, adult collaborators need to be confident, supportive, and skilled at facilitating intergenerational dialogues. For example, if a young person is part of a panel presentation, the facilitator can make sure that any questions addressed to that individual can be answered by any of the young invitees who are present. Also, questions from young people to other panelists can be prioritized to ensure that their voices are heard. Young people can also be skilled facilitators and conveners, especially if provided with training, mentoring, and experiential opportunities. In sum, participation should be supported by training in facilitation, effective communication, and children's rights for both adults and young people.

Whenever young people are involved in an activity, it is of utmost importance to conduct a risk assessment and develop a safety plan that includes clear safeguarding procedures: participation always needs to be safe and sensitive to risk for participants. This is particularly important when engaging young people under the age of 18, who are, from a legal point of view, minors. In such cases, the organization should make child protection a priority, and young participants and their accompanying adults should know how to report their concerns if anything problematic occurs. Similarly, if there is a videographer, or if video or photos are taken, it is imperative to obtain informed consent from the young participants and their legal guardians in advance.

Lastly, funders and conveners should be accountable to participants, which means children and young people should be given feedback about the degree to which their views were taken into account and have the opportunity to share feedback about their experience. While this can be done in a post-event debriefing session, anonymous feedback opportunities sometimes elicit more detail. In addition, longer-term planning with and by young people and adults is encouraged as a way to support more sustainable opportunities for young activists to be engaged in governance processes that affect them.

Rachele_tardi_zachary_turkAll of us in philanthropy should remind ourselves that including children and young people in conversations about issues of importance to them is a key aspect of DEI and should keep in mind the principles behind and best practices for engaging young activists in our work. It is up to us to mirror and model the processes of inclusion and the participation of children and young activists whom we seek to support through our grantmaking and advocacy efforts. In many areas, they are already leading the way. It's important we initiate and sustain, within our own organizations, an ongoing dialogue with them about the systemic change we all want to see.

Rachele Tardi is senior program manager and Zachary Turk is a program officer in the Youth Exchange program at the Open Society Foundations.

Looking to Africa's Future: The Promise of Transnational Ties

January 14, 2020

African_gradNearly seven years ago, when I became president of Yale University, five of the top twelve — and eleven of the top twenty — of the world's fastest growing economies were in Africa, even though the continent faced serious challenges. Amid discussions of sobering events and hopes for the future, Yale took a stand for the promise of education, scholarship, and research — a promise that is particularly significant across Africa, home to a vibrant and growing population of young people. That year, 2013, I launched the Yale Africa Initiative as a way to create new partnerships between Yale and institutions on the continent. 

Africa's economic development remains impressive, but even more spectacular is the growth and promise of its youth. The continent's youth population is expected to increase by 522 million over the next three decades, while in the rest of the world, over the same period, it will decline by 220 million. By 2050, one-third of people on the planet age twenty-four or younger will call the continent home. As they come of age, these young people will take their place among the world's leaders and innovators — meaning we all have an interest in Africa's future.

As a university professor, I am focused on higher education, though primary and secondary education are, of course, critical. Higher education is essential to economic growth, and it also delivers a broad range of benefits, including progress toward gender equality, improvements in individual and public health, strengthened civic  institutions, and enhanced creativity and skills among those who serve society. 
 
Collaborative research and teaching that bridge national borders and cultures can further amplify the positive effects of colleges and universities. Through student and faculty exchanges, institutions of higher education can engage with diverse viewpoints and experiences, improving the scholarship and education they support and deliver. In these enriching environments, students also learn what they can contribute to an increasingly interconnected global community. Yes, they gain the education needed to become productive workers, but more importantly they also acquire the skills and knowledge needed to become business owners, entrepreneurs, and employers; create new knowledge; and transform their communities, their countries, and the planet. Graduates of Yale Law School, for instance, serve as judges and officials for some of the most important courts in the world. These scholars and practitioners are taking the knowledge and wisdom they have gained through their international education to transform the landscape of jurisprudence across Africa and elsewhere.

Earlier this year, I learned about the accomplishments of Adebayo Alonge, a graduate of the Yale School of Management and Lagos Business School, both of which members of the Global Network for Advanced Management. Adebayo won the grand prize in the Hello Tomorrow Global Challenge, a world-renowned startup competition, for RxScanner, a handheld nanoscanner that authenticates drugs and helps patients avoid dangerous counterfeits. The company he built around the technology currently operates in Canada, China, Myanmar, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana, and Nigeria, and he has plans to expand it further. Adebayo's story is just one example of how the opportunity to study in the United States and Nigeria can help power innovation and entrepreneurship.

Like many global universities, Yale has forged a number of partnerships with educational and research institutions in Africa. For instance, Makerere University, Uganda's largest institution of higher education, and Yale collaborate on a variety of research, including investigations of treatments for non-communicable diseases, patient empowerment, and women's health. In the short term, scholars from both Makerere and Yale benefit from exposure to different clinical settings that widen their perspectives, knowledge, and skills. In the longer term, these types of collaborative efforts will increase clinical capacity, improve medical access, and enhance public health, in both countries.

As more nations take a step back from the global community and focus their attention inward, universities must step up and fill the void, providing transformative educational opportunities for students and fostering innovative discoveries that improve lives. There is so much more to do, from creating partnerships and forging transnational ties, to building on the tremendous promise of young people around the globe. As we move inexorably toward 2050, the future increasingly will look  like Africa — full of promise, energy, determination, innovation, and resilience.

Peter Salovey is the president of Yale University. This article was distributed by African Media Agency on behalf of Yale and appears here with AMA and Yale's permission.

How Philanthropy Can Benefit From Tapping Into Instagram Communities

January 13, 2020

Instagram_logoJudging from media coverage and online conversations, it's clear we're living in a time of heightened social consciousness ("wokeness"). Whether that sentiment is driven by genuine concern for the fate of the planet and the welfare of others or a simple desire to be part of a collective is unimportant: people being willing to live less selfishly is a good thing.

That said, changing attitudes and ways of seeing the world don't automatically translate into economic or cultural impact. If we hope to drive meaningful action and change the world, this emerging way of seeing things needs to be broadened, deepened, and communicated as widely as possible. And the key to all that is social media.

When you strike the right tone and activate the right influencers, social media can transform a disparate group of strangers into a unified force for good. And if you were asked to pick one social media platform to focus your organization's resources on, it would have to be Instagram. While the image-friendly platform doesn't have the broad reach of Facebook, it's a powerful platform in its own right and has been growing in popularity, especially among millennials and their younger siblings.

Intrigued? Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization starts to think about using  Instagram to bolster its social-change efforts:

Images drive emotion. Fundraising campaigns typically struggle to gain traction when they rely on text-based messaging alone: even the most persuasive prose can feel removed from matters of life and death, and while it's possible to read about and empathize with the plight of someone living in poverty, too often most of us simply read those appeals and put them aside before getting on with our business.

Knowing this is how most people respond to text-based appeals, charities have learned the value over the years of incorporating imagery into their appeals, whether still photos, videos, or both. If a picture is worth a thousand words, just one powerful photo of a person in need can spark the kind of emotional response from a potential supporter that ultimately leads to action.

Imagery can also be used to illustrate data points and key statistics in ways that make often lifeless material come alive. One of the classic techniques is to combine an affecting image with a dark overlay and an associated statistic rendered in bold text. When done well and shared on Instagram, such an image can easily go viral and spread to other social media platforms.

Community = donations. As persons of average means in an era of billionaire philanthropy, many of us feel disaffected and powerless. Yes, we might have the resources to help one person, but what can any of us do about the root causes of urgent social or environmental problems? It can be all too easy to throw up our hands and trust (or hope) that folks with the money to make a big difference will do so.

In recent years, however, we've seen crowdsourcing emerge as a an important fundraising tool — and a way to bring lots of geographically dispersed individuals together to change things for the better.

On Instagram, crowdsourcing campaigns should focus on the simple experience of supporting a cause and sharing it with others. The best way to do that is to use engagement-building posts designed to get your followers invested in watching the campaign grow as more people get involved. When someone on Instagram sees people they're following donating to and supporting a cause, it makes them want to jump on the bandwagon. Rare is the person who doesn't want to be known as and acknowledged for being compassionate, so take advantage of your followers' generosity and be sure to amplify their posts in support of your cause.

Live video can humanize your supporters. Thanks to Instagram Live (live streaming on the platform) and IGTV (an associated app that allows you to save hour-long videos to the platform), Instagram has become a useful tool for the production and distribution of live video, which  can go a long way in terms of communicating authenticity. After all, prerecorded videos with high production values and a lot of polish look great but often feel cold and soulless.

Presented in the right way, live video pushes social media users to see your donors and supporters as people like them. It favors unscripted testimonials over canned statements and formulaic pledges — spontaneity instead of contrivance.

It's also great for answering questions from a curious (and relatively young) follower base. Because there are so many outlets and options for charitable giving, people will always want to know one thing above all others: Why should I support your charity or cause instead of another? Hosting a live Q&A gives you an opportunity to tell people, face-to-face, why your organization or cause is deserving of their support and develop a personal connection to them at the same time.

For anyone with an important message to convey, social media in general, and Instagram in particular, is the place to be in 2020. With its tremendous reach, focus on strong visuals, and robust support for live video, Instagram is a fantastic tool for  creating engagement with your issue or cause and mobilizing supporters. If you're not using it, now is the time to get started!

Rodney_Laws_EPIO_for_PhilanTopicRodney Laws is an editor at Ecommerce Platforms, a website that evaluates ecommerce platforms and provides ecommerce business advice.

Few Large U.S. Foundations Changed Giving Priorities After 2016 Presidential Election

January 07, 2020

White_HouseIn early 2019, Candid asked 645 of the largest U.S. foundations whether they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. The vast majority (88 percent) of the respondents said their organizations made "few or no changes" to their giving priorities during the two years following the election. About one in eight (12 percent) reported making "some notable changes."

These results differ slightly from a similar survey conducted by Exponent Philanthropy in early 2017. Nearly one-quarter of the participants in that survey — foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors — said they expected to make some changes to their philanthropic giving as a direct result of Donald Trump's election.

Not surprisingly, foundations reporting "few or no changes to their giving priorities" in Candid’s 2019 survey felt little need to further explain why this was the case.  "Staying the course" was a common refrain.

Foundations that reported making "some notable changes" identified five causes in particular for which they felt additional support was needed, given shifts in the political environment: 1) immigration, 2) civic engagement/democracy, 3) equity/social justice/intolerance, 4) the environment, and 5) health care. In some cases, foundations also established "rapid response" funds to help grantees that might be facing new or urgent challenges in carrying out their work.

Foundations that made "few or no changes to their giving priorities"

Most foundations that made "few or no changes to their giving priorities" following the 2016 election felt no need to further explain why this was the case. Those that did offer explanations tended to refer to factors such as donor intent or unwavering adherence to the organizations’ respective missions or strategic plans.

  • "The foundation follows donor intent, so our grantmaking does not tend to change with political shifts."
  • "The foundation’s funds are committed to funding existing programs in our founders' areas of interest and in areas where they lived during their lifetimes."
  • Community foundation: "Most grantmaking is advised by donors or committees for specific purposes."
  • "The election had no effect on our mission so no need to change the focus."
  • "Strategic priorities are generally set by [the] board for a multiyear (10-12 years) time frame."
  • "It makes no difference which party is in control of the government. Our giving priorities are the same."

Some foundations with mandates to focus their giving within specific regions or whose giving is primarily international felt that the national political climate was largely irrelevant to their ongoing work, as did others with highly specific missions.

  • "We are aware of political dynamics but that did not change our focus on rural Minnesota."
  • "The foundation makes grants for overseas mission activities. Therefore, we are not normally affected by politics in the U.S."
  • "Our tightly defined mission serves the fields of art history and art conservation, training professionals in these fields, and supporting their research. The nature of this work has not been altered by the 2016 election."
  • "The foundation supports STEM research in higher education. Program strategies were set in prior years. Research opportunities are rarely changed by individual electoral contests but are instead shaped by wider societal trends."

For many foundations, staying the course but with an increased sense of urgency was the right course of action.

  • "Our existing priorities became more endangered/underfunded, so we stayed the course."
  • "Our focus on legal services, including immigration and social justice, predates the 2016 election by two years; we have increased funding for immigration legal services but much of what we fund has been in the cross-hairs of the current administration so staying on course is appropriate given the current environment."
  • "Our giving is focused at the state level, and our state for the last several decades has been Republican-led. A change in federal leadership has not changed the issues we have focused on — conservation, public education, and health access — but rather reiterated the importance of our work."

Some foundations noted that "staying the course" was especially important if in fact the priorities of other foundations working in the same area were shifting due to political change:

  • "Our foundation focuses exclusively on international grantmaking. Our grantmaking process is guided by our 2016-2020 strategy, which was set before the U.S. election. While other foundations have pulled their funding from international efforts, we have stayed the course, even more so because of other foundations' shifting priorities within the current political climate."
  • "During challenging political times, with many diverting their funds away from the arts towards more urgent political action, the foundation continued funding according to its mission in recognition of the role the arts play in creating a more just and empathetic society, and to avoid destabilizing grantee organizations."

A couple of foundations noted that if shifts in approach to the work were needed, those adjustments would fall more to their grantees than to the foundation:

  • "[Our] grantees were basically the same — with a couple exceptions. Their work shifted."
  • "Education and climate change remain our areas of focus. Federal policies certainly affect these areas, but they don't change our strategic priorities, so much as our grantees' response and approach."

Finally, the idea that political change could have any bearing on how a foundation sets its giving priorities was received with horror by a handful of foundations:

  • "WE STAY FAR AWAY FROM ANYTHING CLOSE TO 'POLITICS.'"
  • "I can't understand why one would ask this question. Are you suggesting a political motive? This question is an insult to our trustees."

Foundations that made "some notable changes in giving priorities after the 2016 U.S. election"

The 12 percent of surveyed foundations that said they made "some notable changes in giving priorities after the 2016 U.S. election" cited five topic areas in particular that required their urgent attention — immigration (3.1 percent), civic engagement/democracy (1.7 percent), equity/social justice/intolerance (1.6 percent), the environment (1.4 percent), and healthcare (1.2 percent). Many of these initiatives overlapped.

Immigration

  • "Launched an immigrant and refugee funder collaborative with other funders to support response to federal policy changes."
  • "The foundation granted to organizations to support staffing for DACA case management and DACA reimbursements."
  • "Yes! We added community service grants specifically to address new problems facing immigrant and minority communities."

Civic engagement/democracy

  • "We added an initiative around civil engagement to encourage more people to participate in government at all levels."
  • "We created a Democracy & Civil Society area of interest in 2017. It was funded again in 2018 and will continue for 2019."
  • "We created three time-limited 'special projects' to strengthen checks and balances within the government and in civil society. We also expanded existing programs to combat misinformation and promote trust in journalism, protect press freedom, and strengthen the security of elections. Finally, we increased our capacity for research and sensemaking through the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group and other efforts."

Equity/social justice/intolerance

  • "After the 2016 elections, the foundation's board authorized the creation of an 'Opportunity Fund' to 'create an enduring portfolio of investments that promote fairness and equity, justice, and opportunity.' The fund has been targeted, in particular, on 'efforts designed to safeguard civility and decency, advance civil rights, counteract hate, support immigrant and refugee communities, and provide legal support to underserved communities.'"
  • "Anti-conservative and anti-free speech bias on college campuses increased and giving changed to support free speech and viewpoint diversity."
  • "New focus on women's rights and social justice."

Environment

  • "Our Environment Program began to fund efforts that could rapidly respond to emergent threats to the U.S. system of environmental and public health laws, regulations, and policies."
  • "It's a temporary surge. Foundation staff have developed three strategic initiatives to which we will target these new dollars in ways that we are confident will build and engage new conservation constituencies, address immediate threats, and seize conservation opportunities across the western U.S. and Canada. In this moment, we trust this surge in funding will accelerate their work."

Health Care

  • "We continued to support organizations that were assisting with enrollment [in ObamaCare] and continued to support advocacy organizations in trying to prevent more Medicaid cuts."
  • "We focused more on policy and advocacy work for mental health and substance abuse."
  • "Due to the threat to reproductive rights and to immigrant women, we added a category for reproductive rights and immigrant women."

Other changes

Some foundations stepped up the level of giving in their existing areas of focus, while others developed "rapid response" funds:

  • "Some additional funding set aside for federal response since the new Administration had an effect in nearly all of our program areas."
  • "The election was one of several factors that indicated a need for greater capacity among some of our partners across the South. Others include policy implications that harm the communities we care about."
  • "The board authorized an increase to the foundation's Presidential Discretionary fund to provide 'additional capacity to make opportunity, one-time investments precipitated by the new political and policy environment.'"
  • "In FY17, the fund conducted a rapid response grantmaking program ($100k total) to assist current grantees to advance and/or defend the social safety net, protect vulnerable immigrants and refugees, prevent violence and hate crimes, with emphasis on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, or respond to government censorship or reputational attack."

Finally, a few foundations said that although they made some notable changes in giving priorities after the election, these actions were not related to changes in the political climate:

  • "The foundation's board approved a new mission in 2017, which resulted in some changes in giving priorities, although there was no direct correlation between this and the 2016 U.S. election."
  • "Reorganization of the foundation, new president in 2017."

Headshot_larry_mcgillLarry McGill is vice president of knowledge services at Candid. This post originally appeared on the Candid blog. For more of his thoughts., click here

Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2020)

January 05, 2020

5W4htUpm6GwJkWfemfytV4-1024-80Happy New Year! Before you get back to work for real, check out our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

To see what climate change could portend for ordinary Americans, look no further than California, where over the last decade, as the Los Angeles Times' Deborah Netburn writes, "[t]he wildfires were more destructive. The drought was the longest on record. And the storms, when they finally came, unleashed more water than [the] dams could contain."

Fundraising

Ready for another year of fundraising? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks wants to help and has pulled together a list of his favorite fundraising blogs

And fundraising expert Pamela Grow shares eleven things you can do to make 2020 your most successful fundraising year yet.

Giving

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares the thinking behind the charitable donations he and his wife, Karen, made in 2019.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit CEOs Alejandra Castillo, Susan Dreyfus, James Firman, Brian Gallagher, Gail McGovern, and Jonathan Reckford make the case that, after nearly two years of data, the evidence is clear: charitable giving is down, and changes in the 2017 tax law are to blame.

Global Health

There are only eight organizations on charity rating site GiveWell's list of top global charities and one of them is the San Jose-based Fistula Foundation. In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander updates the organization's work on the foundation, which it continues to consider "a top charity contender."

Health

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal (with research help from Gabriella Aboulafia) reviews the top developments in health care in 2019 on the fund's To The Point blog. 

Higher Education

"In the modern university, all sources of money, be they gifts from donors, corporate grants, or investments, can be tainted in some way.... [And] students, faculty members, and alumni...are demanding that universities take responsibility for their role in laundering wealthy philanthropists’ reputations and allowing outside influence on research." But are they? Nell Gluckman, a senior reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education, takes a closer look.

International Affairs/Development

On the HistPhil blog, Álvaro Morcillo Laiz, a scholar of international relations, considers "U.S. foundations’ funding of education, the elaboration of statistics, and human rights activism in Latin America as producing public goods." 

Nonprofits

In a post on the Charity Navigator blog, Michael Thatcher, the nonprofit ratings organization's president and CEO, looks back at the things he and his team achieved and learned in 2019, and what they have planned for 2020.

Philanthropy

On the Candid blog, Larry McGill, our vice president for knowledge services, shares findings from a survey of six hundred and forty-five of the largest U.S. foundations conducted in early 2019 that asked if they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. Check out Larry's post to learn more.

Social Good

And writing on the Equities.com site, Thomas Kostigen explains why he thinks impact investing is likely to become a bigger fact in the financial services and  money management worlds in 2020.

(Image: @ NASA EOSDIS)

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share. And Happy Thanksgiving to all! We'll be next Sunday with another roundup.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts in 2019

December 27, 2019

Happy-new-year-2020-red-text-background_1017-21971We're all living on Internet time these days, which is maybe why 2019 seemed to speed by in record time. Before we close the books on another year — and the decade of the teens — we thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on the blog, as determined by your clicks, over the last twelve months. Included are oldies but goodies by Thaler Pekar, Nick Scott, Allison Shirk, and Gasby Brown; a couple of thirty-thousand-foot views of philanthropic giving by Larry McGill, Candid's vice president of knowledge services; new (in 2019) posts Jessica Johansen and NCRP's Aaron Dorfman; and a great review of Edgar Villanueva's Decolonizing Wealth by our colleague Grace Sato. From the team here at PND, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic in 2010? We want to hear from you! Drop us a note at Mitch.Naufts@Candid.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 21-22, 2019)

December 22, 2019

48159486-boughs-of-holly-for-christmas-decorationWe're back with a special solstice edition of our roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Marc Gunther continues his series of exposes of bad behavior in the animal rights field with a piece about Jenny Brown, the co-founder and former executive director of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, New York.

Criminal Justice

In a post that originally appeared on the Heinz Endowments' blog, Heinz Endowment president and Center for Effective Philanthropy board chair Grant Oliphant examines some of the myths and fears behind the system of mass incarceration that has characterized American criminal justice for the last forty years.

Fundraising

With a handful of working days left in the year, lots of folks are feeling overwhelmed, panicky, and guilty. Instead of giving in to negative feelings, Kris Putnam-Walkerly tells her clients "to get clear on their top three priorities, block out time on their calendar to tackle their priorities, and get them done." It's good advice, she adds, any time of the year.

On the theory that good advice is better received late than never, check out Vu Le's sample annual appeal letter before you close the books on 2019.

Health

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Monica Hobbs Vinluan looks at an RWJF-supported multi-state initiative that explores how programs and policies can be integrated to make it easier for all families to thrive.

Philanthropy

Writing on the HistPhil blog, Gara LaMarche, president of the Democracy Alliance and the former head of U.S. Programs for the Open Society Foundations and president of Atlantic Philanthropies, reflects on the importance of serendipity in philanthropy.

On the NCRP blog, Walter Howell, a senior consultant, and Lauri Valerio, communications manager at Community Wealth Partners, share four questions that funders should "sit with" as they learn to let communities lead.

Fingertip giving, humane tech, philanthrosophizing, and billionaire are a few of the words on Lucy Bernholz's list of the top buzzwords for 2020. Check out the Chronicle of Philanthropy for the rest and Lucy's always-interesting explanations.

On the Alliance magazine blog, Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde and Cleodie Rickard, policy manager and policy and public affairs executive, respectively, at the Charities Aid Foundation, share highlights of a recent Alliance panel discussion dedicated to feminist philanthropy. Questions discussed at the event included: What is feminist philanthropy? How does it differ from purely funding women and girls? What role do women’s funds play? And how can the sector achieve gender equality?

Transparency

"Strong systems for financial transparency and accountability on both sides of the funding process are critical for organizations to achieve their programmatic goals," writes Skyler Badenoch, CEO of Hope for Haiti, on Glasspocket's Transparency Talk blog. For donors, that means being transparent about what they want to fund, and why; investing in strategic partnerships and giving greater consideration to multiyear funding; and insisting on good governance, accountability, and transparency in the organizations they decide to fund. Check out the rest of Badenoch's post for more good advice.

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share. And Happy Thanksgiving to all! We'll be next Sunday with another roundup.

Brand Awareness and Your Nonprofit

December 19, 2019

BRAND-AWARENESSIn 2018, Smithsonian Magazine called March for Our Lives, a student-led mass demonstration against gun violence that took place In Washington, D.C., "the most powerful American youth movement in decades." In 2019, March for Our Lives and the movement it catalyzed could not be found among the top five movements of interest to young Americans in a nationally representative sample of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds (Influencing Young America to Act 2019).

The lesson? Never assume others know about your cause or the work you are trying to promote.

Why is awareness important?

As I often tell organizations, the challenge for cause and movement leaders is not to get constituents to regurgitate a brand statement that reinforces work they're already engaged in; it's to connect a cause to the "zeitgeist" in a way that makes it impossible to forget.

Put another way, the fundamental challenge for any cause leader is to help people understand why it's critical they pay attention to your issue — and to keep them paying attention.

The importance of awareness

It's often the case that our messaging doesn't bring new people to our organization or cause but instead builds loyalty among those who already support it. To bring new supporters to the cause, on the other hand, awareness of the issue is imperative.

Needless to say, the fact that the people with whom we work or who support our cause tend to be passionate about our issue can give us a false sense of its importance to the public. In addition, most of us live in filter bubbles that limit our information consumption to items we completely (or mostly) agree with and/or that are relevant to our work. Which is why we're often surprised when others don’t exhibit the same level of awareness of our issue as we think they should.

It makes sense, therefore, that awareness campaigns are at the top of most organizations' communications wish lists — and why so many organizations get "false positives" when they attempt to measure awareness of their issue or cause.

Simple awareness isn't enough

Iowa Writers Workshop founder and mass communications scholar Wilbur Schramm popularized the idea that a message has no meaning beyond that given it by the sender and receiver. In other words, each person makes it personal to him or herself. The sender’s experience, biases, language, etc. influence the outgoing message, while the same happens on the receiving end. And without feedback from the recipient, the sender cannot be certain the message was received as intended.

The research we conducted for Influencing Young America to Act 2019 confirms that the most successful journey from awareness to action involves the personal. When a cause resonates with an individual in a way that is truly personal, he or she is more likely to take action.

Issue campaigns can (and frequently do) miss the mark, however. Organizations often push out information about their issue in terms that are broad and general: "Overdoses involving opioids killed more than 47,000 people in 2017, and 36 percent of those deaths involved prescription opioids."[1] While interesting from an industry or public-health perspective, this kind of approach tends not to be that effective because it doesn't give the person on the receiving end a reason to take action. To truly be effective, the message should echo the kind of bold messaging deployed by the Truth Initiative in its recent opioid campaign: "You can become addicted to opioids after just three days." The statement makes a direct connection to the receiver's personal behavior with a meaningful, informative fact-based claim: opioid overdoses may happen to other people, but you could become addicted to opioids before you know what hit you.

Informing vs. inspiring

Is there a difference between inspiring and informing donors? You bet.

You inform supporters when you:

  • Connect a message or fact to a personal choice they can make (e.g., changing one's own behavior).
  • Explain how their support (activism, personal behavior, giving, volunteerism) matters to those that are being affected and/or served.

You inspire/empower supporters when you:

  • Persuade them to put themselves in the shoes of a member of the target population and, in so doing, give them a reason to act.
  • Reinforce the "power" the individual has to act and affect change personally, for and with others.

When you first share a message, story, or campaign with the general public, be sure to convey the "relatability" of your issue. Over time, your job will be to move individuals who are interested in your issue along a continuum from familiarity with the issue, to familiarity with your organization, to deeper awareness of your cause and the actions they can take on a regular basis to support it. I'm not saying it will be easy, but the extra work required will pay off in the long run.

From all of us at Cause & Social Influence, we wish you Happy Holidays and a safe and peace-filled New Year!

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

_______

Notes

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/index.html

 

Learning by Visiting: Marguerite Casey Foundation Board Meetings

December 12, 2019

Mcf_logoSunday morning began with a tour through Little Haiti, 3.5 square miles comprising the oldest neighborhood of people of Haitian descent in Florida — and one of the largest communities of Haitians in the United States. Riding in a long yellow school bus, Marguerite Casey Foundation board members listened to Boukman Mangones, a Haitian-American architect, speak about the fight to preserve Little Haiti's heritage and to combat the efforts of real estate developers who could displace the community.

Mangones was joined by Marleine Bastien, the founder and executive director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a Marguerite Casey Foundation grantee since 2016. Bastien met the board for the first time that day, in her home community, opening up her organization to ensure that funders know the struggles low-income Haitian families experience daily. When the bus tour ended, board members spent the afternoon in FANM's office — joined by four other grantees — grappling with many of the issues troubling the community, including gentrification, climate change, and immigration.

The Marguerite Casey Foundation works to help low-income families strengthen their voice and mobilize their communities in order to achieve a more just and equitable society for all. The foundation's quarterly board meetings remove "living in poverty" from the sterility of statistics. Since the foundation's founding in 2001, its board has developed a culture that is inquisitive, principled, and clear on priorities. The board understands that families know what is best for their communities and grantee organizations know best how to empower those families. The board sees its role as led by those closest to the issues. They learn by asking, listening, and then acting. That's why the founding board and leadership implemented on-the-ground board meetings starting in 2002, beginning with their first visit to grantee Community Coalition in South Los Angeles — which continues to receive significant, long-term general operating support from the foundation.

"MCF site visits provide board members with an extraordinary level of engagement and interaction with organizers, leaders, and families most directly affected by the issue," says Rami Nashashibi, executive director of Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) and an MCF board member. "I've had the honor of working closely with many foundations across the country for over twenty-five years, and I've never witnessed a board as committed to hearing from and responding to its grantees as I have with my dynamic colleagues at the Marguerite Casey Foundation."

The foundation's two-day board meetings focus on learning and directly engaging with the communities where grantees do their work. Sunday is spent with grantees, families, and issue experts in the field. Board members learn about their grantees' constituents firsthand, not from a report. They can ask them directly, "What can we do to help?" Or, "What do we need to know about the issues facing families right now?"

Monday begins with a period of reflection, giving board members time and an opportunity to discuss how to apply what they heard the day before to the foundation's strategy.

 
Reasons This Approach Supports MCF's Work:
  • MCF board members are thought leaders and influencers in their fields and have a set of qualities that allow them to understand the context in which grantees work.
  • MCF's movement building strategy is community driven, not board driven, which creates space for board members to be a part of the conversation as opposed to driving it.
  • MCF grantees partner with foundation staff to put together on-the-ground educational opportunities for the board — a process that lifts up learnings that are beneficial to the board, foundation staff, and grantees.
  •  

The board also creates opportunities for grantees to learn from issue experts, including authors like Ibram Kendi (Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America), who recently joined a meeting to speak about the history of racism in America. The board centers equity in its work, openly engaging in challenging conversations about how best to nurture families at the intersection of race, gender, and poverty. As a board whose composition is 82 percent people of color, funding mostly organizations led by people of color (more than 86 percent), conversations about diversity and equity aren't just philosophical; they're personal. The board knows that poverty is about more than just money; it's also about education, child care, health care, housing, climate change, transportation, jobs, and justice, or the lack thereof. Families experience poverty as an ensnaring web of interrelated issues that radiate from a center of financial insecurity.

Engaging the foundation’s board of directors in strategic learning allows grantees to take the lead in sharing their innovative strategies and the lessons they have learned. The practice demonstrates a commitment by the foundation to asking the hard questions and, more importantly, to actively listening to the answers.

Zeeba_Khalili_Marguerite_Casey_Fdn_for_PhilanTopicZeeba Khalili is a learning and evaluation officer at the Marguerite Casey Foundation dedicated to finding clear, effective solutions to the complex problems challenging communities of color across the country. This post originally was published on the Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy blog.

The Best-Kept Secret: A Strategic ‘Pivot’

December 10, 2019

Greater-Denver-Jewish-Community-Study-2018-300x300There are countless examples of strategic "pivots" to point to in the for-profit world, many of them from the not-too-distant past. Remember when Amazon just sold books, when Netflix mailed DVDs, or when the Gap was a record store that sold Levi's? It's rare, on the other hand, to hear about nonprofits making the same kind of massive changes in strategy. Of course, taking a risk in Silicon Valley (where companies are expected to produce financial returns for their investors) is different than risk-taking in the nonprofit world, where organizations are responsible for having an impact on a social or environmental problem.

But pivoting — a shift in strategy that helps an organization achieve its desired impact — is crucial for nonprofits that want to succeed over the long-term. "Pivot" doesn’t have to be a bad word or signal failure. Think of it, instead, as a natural part of organizational evolution.

Pivots can be large or small, but they should emerge from a clear understanding of what is working and what is not. Using data (e.g., performance metrics, evaluations, and direct observation) to decide whether or not it's time to pivot will ensure that you pivot in the right direction. This kind of intentionality, coupled with the ability to admit what isn't working, makes a strategic pivot different than just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Organizations that don't pivot eventually end up stuck doing the same old thing, even when evidence points them in another direction. In such a scenario, funders often start to wonder about their investment in a "stuck" organization and whether it's truly creating the impact they would like to see. To help nonprofits that are struggling with the pivot issue, as well as funders who may be sitting on the other side of the table, I wanted to share a story about a pivot made by my organization, UpStart, what we learned from it, and how you can benefit from the same kind of thinking and tactics.

UpStart's flagship initiative in Colorado was our Teen Fellowship program, which each year engaged twenty-four fellows in the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship through a Jewish lens. This program was a part of the larger Denver-Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative to increase engagement of diverse local Jewish teens. In the fellowship, teens worked in small teams to solve a particular problem in their respective communities, developing new initiatives and learning key skills that would help them navigate the world. The program was rated favorably by the teens who participated, but from an outcomes perspective it was becoming increasingly clear it was off-strategy.

UpStart had just updated its theory of change (which affected the organization’s national and local programming, including ours in Colorado), and it was clear that our Teen Fellowship program did not align with the framework. Under the updated theory of change, the organization's goal is not to directly provide experiences for people looking to explore their Jewish identity; instead, we work to inspire bold leaders who are building game-changing Jewish experiences — and connect them to each other to amplify their impact. What's more, the fellowship program was too small to really make the kind of impact we were looking for, and in a landscape already rich with opportunities for teens, it was simply one more option in a crowded field.

We knew Jewish teens would be disappointed when they heard about the decision, so after carefully considering our goals for the region, and in consultation with our funder, the Rose Community Foundation, we decided to transition to a program that would have a wider reach, deeper alignment with our regional strategy, and a clearer connection to our tactical goals.

Explaining the logic behind the transition, Vanessa Bernier, Jewish Life program officer for the Rose Community Foundation, said, "Our goal is to be responsive to changing demographics, which means demonstrating an openness to new ideas, strategies, and innovations. We value our long-standing partnerships with grantees and working together to address the evolving needs of the community."

That was the green light we needed to create the Change Accelerator for Teen Educators, an intensive program that equips individuals with the practical skills needed to identify and launch bold initiatives that meet the ever-evolving needs of Jewish teens in the Denver/Boulder region.

Because we are in the business of helping organizations make change, we took a page out of our own book and leveraged adaptive design — a framework authored by UpStart associates Maya Bernstein and Marty Linsky that brings together the fundamentals of design thinking and adaptive leadership.

We also designed the "pivot" knowing we would need to get our funders on board, identify the outcomes we wanted to achieve, and ensure that our messaging addressed key stakeholder concerns.

As your organization is thinking about making a pivot of its own, consider the following three questions, which are informed by the adaptive design framework:

Who needs to be on board? For our pivot, we knew we needed the leadership of our Colorado team to assess the strategy and provide implementation recommendations. We also needed the green light from UpStart's national leadership team, as well as our funders.

Before presenting the details of a pivot to stakeholders, consider carefully what your data, evaluations, direct observations, and experience have to say about how your audience is likely to receive the new program and why a pivot is needed. Then, share that data with those authorized to make the final decision.

How clear are you about your goals and outcomes? Before moving forward with our pivot, we confirmed the primary reason for making the change by looking at both our theory of change and the impact our funders wanted to see: increasing the reach of our programs. Today, our new program directly serves seven teen educators at six different organizations across the Denver/Boulder region, where they are in a position to have a positive impact on dozens, if not hundreds of teens (many more than the original program).

When you're ready to flip the switch on your pivot, be sure to engage your stakeholders in a dialogue around the best path forward. Creating transparency around the process will help ensure that there's alignment between you and your funder(s).

Who will be affected when you make the pivot? Any time a nonprofit pivots, there will be people who are excited about the change and those who aren't. In pivoting away from our Teen Fellowship program, we knew that teens, parents, and several community partners in the region would feel the loss. We also realized we needed to help other stakeholders understand why it was time for a change.

Once you decide to make a pivot, be clear with your stakeholders about the reasons why. When you communicate with them, be sure to paint a picture of the impact you’re hoping to realize, whom you hope to help, and how you plan to achieve your new goals and objectives.

Our pivot represented a risk for us, but we were able to leverage our data and experience to make the case to our funder, the Rose Community Foundation, with transparency and the appropriate level of urgency. The foundation was already invested in our success, and because we had put a significant amount of time into building a relationship with the team there, and they in us, we didn't think twice about approaching them and trusting that they would be a thoughtful partner in helping us settle on our best next steps.

As nonprofit expert Vu Le wrote in a recent post on his Nonprofit AF blog, "The best, most helpful program officers see themselves as partners in the work....Working with them is fun, and I never feel like I have to hide anything, such as when things don't go well. This sort of relationship fosters transparency, trust, and respect, which leads to more effective strategies that benefit the communities we serve."

By fully committing to an intentional, strategic pivot, nonprofits can put themselves in a position to more quickly adapt to the diverse needs of the communities they serve. UpStart, like so many other nonprofits and funders, is striving to create a more just, vibrant, and inclusive future, and increased participation in Jewish life is one part of that bigger picture. Our recent pivot has helped us increase our impact and effectiveness, and as our community and region continue to change, we'll be looking for other such opportunities.

Headshot_Sarah Kornhauser_UPDATEDSarah Kornhauser is Director, Colorado for UpStart, which is part of the Denver-Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative. The initiative is one of ten such initiatives across the country comprising the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Funder Collaborative.

What It Takes to Manage Leadership Change in the Nonprofit Sector

December 05, 2019

ChangesEvery organization experiences leadership change. But these days, the nonprofit sector is experiencing a big demographic shift. Which is why it's essential for all nonprofits to start planning for the kind of thoughtful leadership transitions —including those resulting from both expected and sudden departures — any organization needs to survive and thrive.

According to the 2017 BoardSource report Leading With Intent, only 27 percent of nonprofits have a formal succession plan in place. That's unfortunate, because having such a plan in place can help any organization overcome the challenges and bumps in the road that almost always pop up in the wake of a leadership transition.

In the past, the process was commonly referred to "succession planning." However, that term often refers to identifying a successor for a specific leader and, in our view, has outgrown its usefulness. It's more helpful, instead, to think about the work of preparing for and managing leadership change as "intentional pathway planning," a more expansive term that serves as a reminder that leadership change involves much more than thinking about a single role or person; it's a holistic approach and lens that should be applied to every step of the hiring and onboarding process.

While every organization’s circumstances are different (involving things like leadership configuration, organizational goals, skills gaps, etc.), all nonprofits would be well-served to take a proactive approach to building a strong leadership pipeline, developing internal talent for higher-level roles, and making themselves aware of specific knowledge and/or diversity gaps that need to be addressed.

Tips for successful intentional pathway planning include:

Consider the big picture. A critical first step in intentional pathway planning is to understand your organization's leadership needs and mission-focused objectives. What are you trying to do? What type of talent will you need to get there? What are your organization’s knowledge gaps, and how can they be filled?

Plan and train. To ensure there's a robust pipeline of talent available to take advantage of future leadership opportunities, you need to proactively take steps to support talent. Provide employees with ample training and development opportunities — as well as continual mentoring and coaching — to help them learn, grow, and thrive. Check in with individual employees about their goals and aspirations, and then tailor development plans for them as appropriate. To ensure you have a deep bench of future leaders, allow staff at various levels to flex their leadership skills — and assume additional responsibilities. Such an approach is just as beneficial for the organization as it is for individuals on the receiving end of these training opportunities and can be pitched to job candidates as an organizational value proposition.

Look internally first. There are significant benefits to promoting from within, including capturing institutional knowledge, boosting team morale, and increasing employee engagement and retention. It's also less expensive and time-consuming to promote from within.

Know when to look externally. Be mindful about your talent needs and recognize that you might not have the skill sets, experience, diversity, or other key attributes needed to fill certain roles in the organization — in other words, there may be valid reasons to conduct an external search. It can be valuable to bring in outside perspectives and skills, especially if you are trying to address knowledge gaps on your internal team. And if your existing team lacks diversity, now would be a good time to do something about it.  Just make sure you're ready to support people from diverse backgrounds as they are onboarded and begin to acculturate to your environment.

Use consistent systems. We are firm believers in the consistent use of performance management processes to capture personnel assessments and track professional development opportunities. Tools such as StrengthsFinder make it easier to assess the strengths (and weaknesses) of your leadership team, identify where knowledge gaps exist, and train people to fill those gaps.

Prioritize staff development. Healthy, sustainable organizations tend to excel at "growing" leaders and retaining their best talent. Make sure that someone on your leadership team is tasked with championing your pipeline development efforts and has the authority to embed it in the organization’s strategic priorities and budget. Recognize, too, that this needs to be an ongoing effort and remain a priority, even when other tasks and initiatives beckon.

Emphasize where DEI meets pathway planning. In the twenty-first century, it's imperative for organizations to embrace a culture of diversity with respect to race, gender, age, experience, perspective, and so forth. The first step in doing that is to identify and celebrate the various skills, competencies, perspectives, and backgrounds already present on your team. Then take steps to augment those skills and perspectives with external hires that enhance your diversity goals. Among other things, that means making sure a diverse group of candidates is considered for every promotion and leadership opportunity that arises.

Customize your plans. Recognize that your pathway planning needs to address future departures at multiple levels, including president/executive director, senior management roles (e.g., development director, major gifts officer, public affairs director, etc.) as well as board members. Because each of these positions requires different skills, experience, and so on, you'll need to develop specific plans to address each possible vacancy scenario.

Expect the unexpected. In a perfect scenario, your executive director will give the board plenty of notice about their planned departure date and will be willing to help select and train their successor. Unfortunately, departures of key leaders sometimes happen abruptly or unexpectedly (due to health issues, family emergencies, or other reasons). If your organization has a thoughtful plan in place, it should provide the kind of guidance an interim director will need during a difficult, tumultuous, and possibly emotional leadership change. If possible, take the time (with the help of the board) to develop an emergency transition plan that spells out the delegation of duties and authority (even temporarily) in the event of an unexpected transition or interruption in leadership.

Consider your organization's biggest challenges. Identify the current — and potential — challenges your organization faces (or is likely to face in the future). What type of leader will best be able to help the organization overcome these challenges, navigate obstacles, and meet its goals and objectives? What skills, qualities, and personality traits does this individual need to possess? What leadership qualities does your organization most need to bring about positive change?

Communicate wisely. Include a communications plan in your transition plans. While the circumstances of the transition will dictate the specific messages around it, you'll need to communicate any leadership change to internal and external audiences. Identify possible spokespeople, and make sure they're aware of — and comfortable with — their roles. Develop a list of key stakeholders that will need to be in the loop (e.g., board members, major donors, key staff, media, etc.). Recognize that you need to be thoughtful, clear, and concise with your messaging and its delivery.

Leadership transitions — especially when they're unexpected — can leave an organization vulnerable. It's essential to be prepared for a variety of scenarios and have plans in place to manage any change in leadership, regardless of the circumstance. BoardSource’s research shows that most organizations don’t have a formal transition plan in place. Make sure your organization does.

Headshot_miecha_forbes_KoyaMiecha Ranea Forbes is senior vice president of Culture, Inclusion & Strategic Advising at Koya Leadership Partners, an executive search and strategic advising firm guided by the belief that the right person at the right place can change the world.

We Must Act Now to End Students’ Basic Needs Insecurity — Together

December 03, 2019

Food insecurity on campusAs hundreds of thousands of students scramble to submit their college applications, many are thinking beyond the daunting cost of tuition and student fees to how they will pay for their everyday necessities once they've arrived on campus. With nearly half of college students at two- and four-year institutions experiencing food insecurity and more than half struggling with housing insecurity, it goes without saying that gaps in basic-needs provision are a major issue impacting today's college students — one that requires a systemic solution.

Examples of expenses that can derail a student's progression to a degree include emergency car repairs, rent increases, or a sudden illness. Such needs and emergencies often can be addressed, however, by immediate direct supports, including emergency-aid grants, food pantries, rapid rehousing services, and campus partnerships with community and government agencies aimed at ensuring students are supported throughout their academic journey.

Colleges are well positioned to be points of entry to a coordinated suite of social services for students. Working in tandem with community and government partners, colleges can use their own resources and design more student-centered services to cover students’ basic needs and keep them on track to their degrees.

For instance, in Washington state, the United Way of King County is working in partnership with local colleges to develop on-campus Benefits Hubs, which are designed to connect students to public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as community partners that can provide immediate resources and financial assistance for housing-related emergencies.

Holistic support provided by colleges and community-based programs also can play a critical role in providing students with a pathway out of their basic-needs challenges. The Southern Scholarship Foundation in Florida works with universities and colleges across the state to provide rent-free housing to postsecondary students who demonstrate academic merit and financial need. Having a secure and safe place to return to after school and work is essential for student well-being and academic success and can be the difference between a student graduating or dropping out.

There's no one-size-fits-all in terms of helping today’s college students — many of whom no longer match the traditional description of the 18- to 24-year-old seeking a four-year degree right out of high school. Today’s students are more likely to be over 25 and the first in their family to attend college. Many also often face competing demands for their time, including work and family responsibilities.

Research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) found that while the population of single-mother students has increased significantly over the years, only 28 percent of single moms who enroll in college will graduate with an associate or bachelor’s degree within six years, compared to 40 percent of married mothers and 57 percent of female students who are not parents. The disparity often is due to the very real challenge of supporting a family, juggling work, and completing coursework. IWPR found that providing students with parent support services, including childcare, goes a long way to helping single moms succeed.

Colleges and universities alone cannot fix the problem. It will take a movement to address students' multifaceted needs and safeguard postsecondary education as a public good. And it will require action and collective investment involving multiple sectors, including institutions of higher education, government, community-based organizations, and research and philanthropic entities.

In October, California governor Gavin Newsom signed into law sweeping legislation designed to increase the allocation of funding for emergency-aid grants for community college students in the state, in addition to approving $19 million to address homelessness among students across the state’s community college, California State University, and University of California systems. Both policy actions expand support for students who may otherwise be at risk of dropping out due to financial emergencies and basic-needs challenges. Other states could emulate California and help their most vulnerable students overcome these types of life crises so that they persist through school and graduate with a degree.

Last month, ECMC Foundation launched the Basic Needs Initiative, a $3 million effort to pilot, evaluate, and scale programs aimed at stemming the tide of basic-needs insecurity among college students. Through a national cohort of seven organizations and institutions working with two- and four-year institutions, we will spend the next three years working with grantees to address basic needs issues among students, with a focus on food, housing, child care, mental health, emergency financial assistance, and transportation.

But we can't stop there.

We need others to invest in organizations working to address basic-needs insecurity. We need holistic approaches aimed at increasing academic persistence and graduation rates for the most vulnerable students on campus. And we need to work to eliminate basic-needs insecurity as an issue so that students who complete a bachelor's degree reap the return on investment and the social mobility that comes with it.

Sarah_belnick_for_PhilanTopicTogether, we can reduce basic-needs insecurity for students, today and into the future.

Sarah Belnick is senior program director for College Success at ECMC Foundation, a national foundation working to improve postsecondary outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

 

Garifuna and the 2020 Census

December 02, 2019

Garifuna300Gilberto Amaya's career in international development has taken him to more than thirty countries, where he has implemented renewable energy systems, agribusiness projects, and poverty alleviation initiatives. Along the way, he witnessed the post-independence struggles of sovereign states whose names are rarely heard on nightly newscasts in the U.S. — Burkina Faso, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe. A native of Honduras, he has memories of blending into and being welcomed by communities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America.

Yet, near his home in Fairfax, Virginia, a bureaucracy momentarily stripped him of his identity — and incident that sparked Amaya's quest to have "Garifuna" fully recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"After conducting some public business at a government agency in Virginia," Amaya recalled, "I was leaving the counter, and the Latina clerk heard me speaking Spanish to my wife and called me back."

For ethnicity, Amaya had checked the box next to "black."

"You checked the wrong box," the clerk said. "You can't check black. You speak Spanish. You have to check Hispanic.' "

Today, Amaya is a member of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC), which solicits recommendations on ways to improve the accuracy of the decennial count in determining ethnic minorities, and is allied with other Garifuna organizations, scholars, and Afro-Latino advocates working to document the heritage and raise the visibility of the Garifuna people.

The Garifuna are descendants of Africans of mixed tribal ancestry who were captured and shipped from Africa to the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Garifuna historians recount on-board insurrections that ran ships aground. The captives escaped inland and intermarried with indigenous Carib and Arawak Indians, who were also subject to forced-labor bondage. Sometimes referred to as the Black Caribs, the Garifuna led and participated in the unsuccessful Carib Wars aimed at overthrowing British dominion, sometimes with assistance of France, England's imperial rival.

Although slavery had been banned in England by the late 1700s, the slave trade continued in the Americas. Given public outrage and the growing political strength of the abolition movement, the British demurred, in the Caribbean, from wholesale execution of prisoners deemed guilty of armed resistance. Although many Garifuna died after being captured, others were transported seventeen hundred miles to the west and abandoned to their fate.

"They put more than two thousand people on ships and transported them across the Caribbean to the Bay Islands of Honduras," Amaya explains. "That's where the Garifuna people first landed in Central America. And after their arrival on the coast, they eventually moved north and west to the rest of Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize, as well as south into Nicaragua. Through migration, some large communities also were established in the U.S., for example in the South Bronx."

Amaya says New York's Garifuna population is America's largest, numbering between 70,000 to 100,000. "But that is only an estimate because we don't really show up in decennial census data." Garifuna can also be found in Houston, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, both in the U.S. and abroad, albeit in smaller numbers.

The Garifuna are not new arrivals to the United States. "Migration is in our people's DNA," Amaya says. "The earliest Garifuna migration to the U.S. was after World War II, when we were recruited to work on the merchant marine ships supplying Europe during the war against the Axis powers. Garifuna weren't conscripted into the U.S. military, but many chose to remain in America after the war and never returned home. They sent for their families to join them."

Education was Amaya's path to the United States. He grew up on the Honduran coast, an outstanding student who became the first Garifuna to graduate with a degree in industrial-mechanical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, the country's capital. There he met and married Rachel, another Garifuna student at the university. They have six children.

"I went to work for the Honduras government for ten years until I was offered an opportunity to work for a U.S. Agency for International Development contractor on projects in Latin America," he says. "Later, they decided I would be more useful to their work in Africa."

The contractor preferred that Amaya be U.S.-based, so the family moved to Philadelphia. He earned his master's degree in international development from the University of Pennsylvania.
 
The dramatic growth of the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States, captured in the censuses of 2000 and 2010, did not go unnoticed by America's political elites. Amaya remembers the raw opportunism and frantic attempts of both the Democratic and Republican parties to tap into what was perceived as a potential source of voters. Likewise, corporations, awakened to an emerging customer base and potential consumer market, began to look for Spanish-language spokespeople.
 
"I remember the lawyers all over the region where I live in Virginia running around, struggling with their broken Spanish to reach out to the Hispanic population because it was growing so fast."
 
According to the Census Bureau, Hispanics in the U.S. today number almost 60 million, more than 18 percent of the population. By 2050, that number is projected to rise to approximately 133 million, and Hispanics will comprise one-third of the population. Hispanics are "the nation's largest ethnic or racial minority," the Census Bureau reports, and ten states already have at least one million Hispanic residents.
 
For many Americans, the terms "Hispanic" and "Latino" are interchangeable, but for purposes of the census "Hispanic" refers primarily to descendants of people from Mexico or other polities once under Spanish colonial rule, while "Latino" refers to the populations of Central and South America (Latin America), but includes Brazil, which was colonized by the Portuguese.
 
How the descendants of the millions of Africans forcibly imported into the New World defined themselves is rarely addressed. In some countries, Amaya explained, those who owned slaves included them in census responses as an indicator of wealth. After independence, "governments sought to present a whiter face to the world in order to attract European immigrants." The hierarchical color codes denoting mixed blood and status, with "black" at the bottom, were maintained as a social construct but discarded for purposes of the census.
 
"Wherever you go — and I've been around, in Latin America and Europe and lots of other places — it doesn't matter the type of regime, left  or right, democracy or autocracy or theocracy, black people are always in the same position, at the bottom of the economic ladder.
 
"And in my work, I have to look at those things and say, So why are we being sold the idea in Latin America that we're all the same, that we have the same rights, the same opportunities, yet we're always at the bottom? Nowhere is there anything close to a racial democracy. I came to the realization that it was a deliberate effort by the white Hispanic elite to keep the situation like that, and to inflate its [own] numbers."
 
With guidelines set by the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Census Bureau has tried to address the issue with a linguistic panacea of sorts. Hispanics and Latinos, according to the Census Bureau, are not a race but rather an ethnic group that can be of any race. The bureau notes that, "in 2000 and in 2010, the Some Other Race (SOR) population, which was intended to be a small residual category, was the third-largest race group. This was primarily due to Hispanics identifying with any of the OMB race categories. In addition, segments of other populations, such as Afro Caribbean and Middle Eastern or North African populations, did not identify with any of the OMB race categories and identified as SOR."
 
The 2020 census race categories will be the same as they were in 2010: white, black or Afro American, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and as many as eleven boxes to denote Asian.
 
In order to be recognized as Garfuna in the 2020 census, Amaya will have to write "Garifuna" or "Honduran" on the form under origin:Hispanic and then check the box for black or African American. Presumably, he will be counted as both. Amaya estimates that, when adding the Afro Latino population to the black/African American one, the combined percentage of the total U.S. population is probably closer to 20 percent.
 
At the same time, his insistence on raising the visibility of the Afro Latino presence in America has caused discomfort in some quarters. Indeed, he's been accused of being divisive when he points out that the diversity of the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S. is not fully represented.
 
Amaya's letter to a Census Bureau director addressed "the concern increasingly voiced by millions in the Afro Latino community, a significant growing segment of the Hispanic population in the United States, which doesn't see itself recognized, equitably represented, and sharing equally in the benefits — including representation in government, employment services, and so on."
 
Locally, Amaya has been working with the District of Columbia's Complete Count Committee to ensure that Afro Latinos are counted in the 2020 census. During the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's annual legislative conference in September, he was a key organizer of a panel, "The Decade of the Diaspora: A Conversation on the Afro Descendant Experience in Latin America," hosted by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). Actor Danny Glover was a speaker, as were several Garifuna activists. Although the event focused on the challenges and conditions of Afro Latino communities abroad, the question of identity resonated throughout the discussion.
 
In 2001, UNESCO recognized the Garifuna language, dance, and music of Belize and neighboring Honduras as a "Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangibles Heritage of Humanity." Spoken, Garifuna is a mellifluous tongue comprised of African dialects, Carib, Arawak, and elements of French.
 
Amaya is fluent in Garifuna and cites preservation of Garifuna language and culture as something most Garifuna are committed to. He is heartened by individuals like Ruben Reyes, who co-produced and starred in Garifuna in Peril, a film that portrays how modernity has affected Garifuna communities. Amaya sees the census as a valuable tool to foster Afro Latino and Garifuna unity and prosperity.
 
"We are promoting the inclusion of Afro-Latinos in census work," Amaya said. "I work to get the word out about the differences that exist on the census and the invisibility of the Afro-Latinos within the larger Hispanic population. 
 
"We have our challenges," he adds. But at the same time he trusts that Garifunas' "fierce resilience" will help chart their path forward.

Gilberto Amaya is working to make sure it does.
 
Khalil Abdullah is a former executive director of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, a former editor/writer for New America Media, and a former managing editor of the Washington Afro Newspaper.

Bias and Language in Behavioral Sciences Research and Analysis

November 25, 2019

Funder_biasIn our previous post, we discussed the principles of ethical research and the importance of disclosing funding sources. Now let's explore how you can avoid funder bias and why you should use inclusive language in your research and analysis.

Guard Against Funder and Other Biases

Just as reporters should be committed to objective journalism, behavioral scientists have the professional and moral obligation to conduct fair, unbiased research and analysis.

In the health services industry, research findings can educate funders, practitioners, and potential patients of the effectiveness of a new treatment or prevention regime and/or used to develop more effective programs.

Unfortunately, sometimes companies and institutions fund research with the expectation that the scientists doing the research will "steer" the study toward results that put the funder in a positive light.

To avoid funder bias, researchers should only participate in research projects where there is no pressure on them to coerce participants, design tests to generate positive results, or alter their conclusions. They also need to eliminate their personal beliefs and values, perceptions, and emotions from the study, so as not to produce a biased outcome. As a researcher, you have a responsibility to be honest and objective and not give colleagues or the scientific community a reason to distrust your work.

Use Inclusive Language

Non-stigmatizing terminology that is applied with care and takes into account the diversity of your audience sends the message that you are eager to establish a fair and respectful atmosphere around the sharing and discussion of results.

Inclusive language also helps foster respectful relationships. It avoids prejudice and stereotypes. It doesn't exclude people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, socioeconomic status, or appearance. It doesn't imply judgment or assign value. Examples of inclusive language in behavioral health include using "substance use disorder" instead of "addiction" or "mental health patient" instead of "mentally ill person."

For all of these reasons, and others, inclusive language and an aversion to bias are absolutely essential if you want your  research and analysis to be taken seriously. If you haven't already, now is an excellent time to incorporate them into your research efforts.

(Ilustration credit: Tarbell)

Peter Gamache, PhD, and Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, are principals at Turnaround Life, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps others with grant writing, program development, capacity building, and evaluation.

Weekend Link Roundup (November 23-24, 2019)

November 24, 2019

Cornucopia-166186079-592c3f2b3df78cbe7e6c4135And...(long pause)...we're back with our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Democracy

It’s been thirty years since the Berlin Wall fell, inspiring a democratic awakening across Central and Eastern Europe. What lessons does the end of the Cold War offer for the next generation of reformers? On the Open Society Foundation's Voices blog, Tim Judah reflects on his own experience and talks to activists in Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic about where they were in 1989 and their hopes for the future

Diversity

What is "equity offset" and why should you care? Nonprofit AF's Vu Le explains.

Education

On the GrantCraft blog, Anne Campbell, an assistant professor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, finds lots to like about Scholarships for Change, a new online resource created by our talented colleagues here at Candid.

Fundraising

If you're still fundraising on bended knee — well, stop it. Social Velocity's Nell Edgington explains why in the new year you need to think about "making your ask from a place of true worthiness, true value, and true equality."

Giving

Effective altruism site GiveWell is offering matching funds to any donor who hears about the organization's work via a podcast ad campaign it is running. Learn more here.

Grantmaking

As she prepares for the next stage of her career in philanthropy, Michelle Greanias, who recently ended her tenure as executive director of PEAK Grantmaking, reflects on what she has learned over the last eleven years.

On the Transparency Talk (Glasspockets) blog, Claire Peeps, executive director of the Los Angeles-based Durfee Foundation, explains why its important for a foundation, even a leanly staffed foundation like hers, to keep the door open to all kinds of nonprofits.

Health

Citing research and resources that demonstrate the critical connection between health and rural economic development, Katrina Badger, MPH, MSW, a program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Katherine Ferguson, MPA, associate director of the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group (CSG), argue that we need to rethink how we invest in rural America and the way we approach health and equity across its diverse communities.

Nonprofits

Is your nonprofit measuring the things it should be measuring? Is it measuring anything at all? On the Candid blog, Steven Shattuck, chief engagement officer at Bloomerang and executive director of Launch Cause, walks readers through the five key performance indicators that every nonprofit should be measuring.

Over the last three weeks or so, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has been announcing the winners of its 2019 Impact Awards. Check out these links to learn more about the Emergent Fund, Unbound Philanthropy, the Libra Foundation, and the Marguerite Casey Foundation. And congrats to all!

Philanthropy

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Dawn Franks, CEO of Your Philanthropy and the author of Giving Fingerprints, regrets the fact that too many donors seem not to understand the importance of the relationships they have (or don't) with the nonprofit organizations they support.

Science/Technology

On the Ford Foundation's Equal Change blog, technology fellow Michelle Shevin and Michael Brennan, a program officer in the foundation's Technology and Society program, explain why this is a critical moment for open-source digital infrastructure.

Social Good

Did you know that by 2025, millennials will comprise three-quarters of the American workforce? What are the implications of that for capital providers, asset managers, social enterprise founders, foundations, corporations, and impact funds looking to leverage their assets for social good? On the Alliance magazine blog, Christina Wu, community and impact measurement manager at European Venture Philanthropy Association, shares some thoughts.

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share. And Happy Thanksgiving to all! We'll be next Sunday with another roundup.

Research and Analysis Best Practices in Behavioral Sciences

November 15, 2019

Behavioral health servicesBehavioral and mental health conditions have long been misunderstood and exaggerated. Societal factors play a significant role in how those with behavioral or mental health problems are perceived. Behavioral science research can be used not only to educate the practicing professional but also to educate the public and help fight stigma. With heightened awareness and understanding, health disparities can be eliminated and better health policies developed.

However, before diving into research, there are some best practices we should take into consideration. Below, we will discuss the principles of ethical research, how to disclose funding sources, how to avoid funder bias, and the importance of using inclusive language.

Ethical Research

When it comes to the behavioral sciences studies, it is unethical to conduct research that converts public resources such as foundation funding into private gains. It is unprincipled to conduct biased work. Because research and analysis involve the participation of individuals or groups who have the relevant experience and background, there are also a number of ethical practices to take into account.

The research should not put participants at risk or seriously damage the environment. Informed consent is another one of the foundations of research ethics and is key to minimizing harm, distress, or discomfort for the participants. Participants in a study must not have been coerced or deceived into participating. They should understand the purpose of the research and, more importantly, recognize that they are participating in a study. It's also an ethical practice to discuss research methods and any potential inconveniences participants may experience.

Researchers also should explain how they intend to protect participants' anonymity and ensure their confidentiality. In many behavioral science studies, the subject matter is private or sensitive in nature. Participants want to feel safe when sharing information by knowing that identifiers that reveal who they are will be removed from any published work. If for any reason a study needs to disclose participants' identities, researchers have the legal responsibility to get their permission.

Disclosure of Funding Sources

Behavioral health studies can be costly to conduct and may require multiple funding sources. Research in behavioral science typically is funded by grants from government agencies, foundations, and private companies. However, financial connections between funders and researchers may raise concerns around biases and conflicting interests. Conflicts of interest can occur when the researcher has financial interests or personal relationships with an organization funding the study.

It is a common concern to assume that sponsored studies will favor the sponsor. Complete reporting of financial support sources and the existence of any conflicts of interest allow the research and the accuracy of its published findings to be judged on the merits. Disclosing funding sources also increases transparency and, in turn, public trust.

Disclosure of funding sources is so important in behavioral sciences studies that government agencies such as the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, Institute of Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control have established guidelines for authors to disclose funding sources and financial relationships that may bias their decisions, activities, and work.

For research to be respected, well-received, and assessed fully and fairly, it should be free of funder bias. In a future post we will more fully explore why it’s essential to avoid funder bias and will talk about the importance of using inclusive language and why the communication of research findings is more effective when the research itself is non-discriminatory, unbiased, and free of judgmental labels.

Peter Gamache, PhD, and Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, are principals at Turnaround Life, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps others with grant writing, program development, capacity building, and evaluation.

Every Sector Has a Role to Play in Addressing the Nation's Home Affordability Challenges

November 11, 2019

Housing-affordibility-twitter-1024x767Recently, companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple have made significant commitments to address the housing affordability crisis in the Bay Area and across the United States. While such commitments are a great start, much more needs to be done to ensure that all families in America can afford a decent place to live.

It is unacceptable in 2019 that one in six families pays half or more of their income on rent or their mortgage. For many, this means choosing between having a safe place to live or having enough money for food, transportation, health care, and other basic needs. At Habitat for Humanity, we believe a roof over one's head shouldn’t cost anywhere near half one's pay. We also believe it will take all of us working together to significantly impact the housing deficit in this country.

While there is no silver-bullet solution to the nation’s housing challenges, collaboration between the private, public, and social sectors are key to making affordable housing accessible to more families. And as nonpartisan players working to address housing challenges in their communities, nonprofit organizations have a critical role to play in advancing workable, bipartisan policy solutions that will have a lasting impact on the problem.

To better address these issues, Habitat recently launched Cost of Home, a national advocacy campaign that aims to increase home affordability for ten million people through policy and system changes at the local, state, and federal levels. More than two hundred and eighty local and statewide Habitat organizations across the country have already signed on to implement the campaign in their communities.

As part of the campaign, we have identified four things that must be done in order to achieve home affordability for American families: increase the preservation and supply of affordable housing; increase equitable access to credit; optimize land use for affordable housing; and develop communities of opportunity. In the past year, we've already seen some success at moving these ideals forward.

For example, last December the Minneapolis City Council passed Minneapolis 2040, a comprehensive plan that allows small-scale residential structures with up to three dwelling units to be built on individual lots in residential neighborhoods, abolishes parking minimums for all new construction, and allows higher-density multi-family housing to be built along transit corridors. The plan makes Minneapolis the first major U.S. city to end single-family only home zoning — and one of the first to take steps toward abolishing restrictive zoning that prevents minorities from moving into certain neighborhoods. Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity was a significant voice in advocating to eliminate single-family-only zoning regulations in Minneapolis.

Similarly, Austin Habitat for Humanity worked with a coalition of affordable housing and community development organizations to secure passage of Affordability Unlocked, a proposal designed to increase the supply of affordable housing in the city. Key elements of the proposal included zoning changes and eliminating development requirements related to parking and minimum lot size. In May, after hours of debate, the Austin city council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance.

And in February, Oregon governor Kate Brown signed into law the first mandatory statewide renter protection legislation. The bill limits the scope of termination notices without stated cause, protecting families who are living paycheck to paycheck. Shannon Vilhauer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oregon, which represents local Habitat groups across the state, testified in support of the legislation.

We're working with our state and local Habitat organizations to build on these advocacy successes by putting home affordability issues front and center for council members, mayors, and state representatives across the country. As a complement to our influence at the state and local levels, we are also expanding our advocacy engagement at the federal level, with a focus on a set of bold, high-impact housing policy solutions. The campaign's policy priorities will provide a platform that mobilizes housing advocates and elevates the issue of home affordability in the national conversation, with the goal of ensuring that every candidate running for office has a plan to increase home affordability in their communities and states.

Major financial commitments from some of the country's most generous enterprises and philanthropies serve as a reminder of the urgency of the problem and the need to address it. By continuing to work at all levels of government to advance policy solutions that will lead to systemic change, we can create an environment that will further our vision of making the cost of home something everyone can afford.

Headshot_Jonathan_ReckfordJonathan T.M. Reckford is chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity International, which he has led since 2005.

Fit to Fund: Who Should Pay to Raise Standards for Good Financial Grant Practice?

November 08, 2019

Global standardsFunders have a right to expect that their nonprofit grantees have systems and structures in place to manage grants effectively and ethically. But does that right also imply that funders have a responsibility to invest in the grant management capabilities they expect from organizations they entrust with funds?

In the production of French cognac, nearly twenty million bottles, or 8 percent of the country’s annual production, is lost to evaporation after the distilled spirit has been put up in oak barrels; this is known, rather romantically, as "the Angel's Share."

A similar but far less romantic phenomenon occurs in the nonprofit sector. According to Caroline Fiennes, author of It Ain't What You Give, It's The Way That You Give It, roughly $125 million in the United Kingdom alone is "lost" by grant recipients in the production of reports required by funders and government agencies; much of that is spent on duplicate assessments as part of the submission of multiple grant proposals.

Rather than going to the angels, this $125 million could be seen as the "admin share," with both funders and their nonprofit grantees spending significant amounts of time and money on multiple due diligence assessments, diverting funds to needless administrative tasks that could be used to change lives for the better.

Most grant proposal forms use different criteria, leaving many would-be grant recipients unclear about what funders expect of them. This also means that many nonprofits end up spending hundreds of hours a year filling in different forms that ask for the same basic information in slightly different ways.

Nowhere is the problem more acute than when it comes to filling in forms designed to assess a nonprofit's grant management practices. In part, this is because funders are under increasing pressure from watchdog groups, the media, and taxpayers to demonstrate that the funds they award are being spent effectively and ethically.

In addition, different ideas about what constitutes good grant management practice have led to lower levels of trust in grant management capabilities across global funding supply chains. As a result of this breakdown, nonprofits find themselves having to jump through ever more complex and costly assessment hoops in order to reassure funders of their reliability.

The Global Grant Community (GGC) was established to address this broken model and reduce the "admin share" of funds being lost to paperwork. Its mission is to enable more money to flow to the people who need help by using standardization and the disruptive power of technology to reduce the cost, in time and dollars, currently entailed in connecting funders with potential nonprofit partners.

Our antidote to "admin share" is the world’s first international standard for Good Financial Grant Practice (ARS 1651:2018). For the first time ever, there is now a global standard for good grant management practice that CBOs, CSOs, NGOs, and higher educational and research institutions can adopt, bringing rigor and trust to even high-risk funding environments and creating a level playing field between state and philanthropic funders and their beneficiaries.

Streamlining and stripping out the cost of due diligence by standardizing and digitizing the due diligence process also means a greater comfort level for funders — and more money for organizations that are working to create greater impact for people across Africa and the world — a win for both funders and recipients.

The new standard was developed at the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya, with support from some of the world’s largest public- and private-sector funders, including UKAID, USAID, Wellcome, UK Research and Innovation, the UK Department of Health and Social Care, the IKEA Foundation, the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), the African Union, and the New Partnership for Africa's Development and Coordinating Agency (NEPAD).

Developed in partnership with the African Organization for Standardization (ARSO), the standard was piloted and road-tested by more than three hundred organizations around the globe and was formally adopted (ARS 1651:2018) by ARSO in June 2018. As such, it sets out more than two hundred and eighty clauses stipulating what major funders expect from their grantees with respect to grant management practice. The practices are organized into four broad organizational areas — financial management, human resources, procurement, and governance — and four tiers of compliance — bronze, silver, gold, and platinum (depending on the scale and complexity of funding and the size of the nonprofit, NGO, or research institution).

The GFGP standard is not meant to replace existing audit and assessment processes but instead provides a strong and consistent belt for a funder's braces. Because grant recipients are assessed against common standards of grant management practice, funders can have greater confidence that their funds will be spent effectively, responsibly, and free from corruption. Working with certified Global Grant Community organizations also reduces funders’ risk and the cost of audits and compliance, ensuring that more of their funds support government policy objectives, Sustainable Development Goals, and Grand Bargain targets.

At the same time, a global standard benefits grant recipients. Because the standard clearly sets out the grant management and risk mitigation procedures funders are looking for before awarding grants, nonprofits can use the standard as a tool to improve their grant management capabilities.

The journey for a nonprofit to world-class grant management practice begins with a simple GFGP Pre-Certification Assessment that measures its capacity to comply. Organizations can improve their funding prospects further by opting for an independent audit by a licensed GFGP Standard Certification Body and earning a Certificate of Compliance, which can be displayed as a quality mark on a searchable database used by funders, where it is seen by many funders. This "provide once – share with many" functionality reduces the time and money that grantmakers spend on finding and verifying reliable partners.

Critics of the standard may point out the irony of yet another new form that needs to be filled out. However, we believe that over time the GFGP standard will be the only form a nonprofit ever needs to complete. Still, there is a short-term cost for nonprofits, and while the costs are far lower than the price charged by external audit firms and other third-party verification bodies, they do represent a barrier for many organizations, which in turn limits the ability of those organizations to improve their grant management capabilities and attractiveness to funders.

That raises an interesting question about whether the world's biggest funders should subsidize the cost of completing a GFGP assessment for underresourced organizations. We say "yes." By making the cost of an assessment and certification an allowable grant expense, funders would be acting in their own self-interest while strengthening the ability of their nonprofit partners to spend the grant funds they receive responsibly and ethically. If you decide to give someone a car, the first thing you probably want to know is whether person has a driver’s license. The same principle applies here.

As well as making a GFGP assessment an allowable expense, we are calling on funders to provide small grants through a special fund to pay for assessments for the smallest CSOs as a way of ensuring that no organization is left behind. It's our belief that the GFGP standard will become an international standard on which all grant funding, and the way funders fund, is based. It is long overdue, and we look forward to the many positive changes its adoption will bring.

Headshot_michael_kilpatrickMichael Kilpatrick is senior advisor to the Global Grant Community at the African Academy of Sciences in Nairobi, Kenya.

When Less Is More: Cities Unlock the Potential of Micro-Philanthropy

November 05, 2019

Love Your Block_NewarkIn their 2017 book The New Localism, Bruce Katz and Jeremy Nowak make the case that we're at the beginning of a new era: one in which cities and counties must take the lead on new strategies to address pressing social and economic challenges.

But if they hope to be successful, city leaders cannot take on this burden alone: they need to unleash the collective power of their communities. The good news is that a growing number of cities are finding that supporting communities in small ways — for instance, with microgrants — can deliver outsized impact.

Consider the case of the Denver Foundation, which has kept its Strengthening Neighborhoods initiative going for nearly two decades. The initiative provides grants ranging from $100 to $5,000 to fund community-driven solutions that take advantage of the skills and resources already present in a community. Similarly, the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation's Spark Grants program relies on a grassroots leadership model to bring diverse groups together to strengthen local neighborhoods.

The power of small grants to drive change has not been lost on city leaders, many of whom are embracing the potential of micro-philanthropy — and pairing it with a citizen-led ecosystem that supports the effective implementation of those grants. In Newark, we've taken these lessons to heart and are eager to share some of what we've learned about how small grants can help lay a foundation for improved social and economic mobility.

First, cities need help in creating the infrastructure that will ensure success. In addition to providing cities with a $25,000 grant, the Love Your Block grant program — a program of Cities of Service, part of Bloomberg Philanthropies' American Cities Initiative — supports cities with two full-time AmeriCorps VISTA members who assist the mayor's office in the areas of capacity building, information sharing, and community engagement. At the point where the cities start to divvy up their Love Your Block grant into micro-grants, the VISTAs also assist community members with their grant applications. And it works. In two targeted neighborhoods in Newark, thirty-four residents submitted project proposals totaling $42,518 for community clean-ups, minor home repairs, and vacant lot activation.

Second, cities need to learn from others who are working to get individuals involved in similar ways. Cities of Service has created a blueprint for action and provides ongoing technical assistance that includes advice about troubleshooting challenges as well as tips on making connections with other cities working on similar initiatives (including using both formal and informal communications channels, from webinars and e-newsletters to Slack). In Newark, our Love Your Block grant was implemented by the city's Office of Sustainability, which works to make Newark a healthier, cleaner, and greener city — and which relied on resources provided by Cities of Service to ensure that implementation of the grant went smoothly.

Third, cities need to create opportunities for continued collaboration in order to reap the longer-term benefits of micro-philanthropy. When the Urban Institute recently studied the value of the Love Your Block program, it found that, in addition to revitalized neighborhoods, Love Your Block projects led to increases in both social cohesion (the level of connectedness individuals feel to their neighbors and surroundings) and social capital (as a result of relationships built with city leaders over the course of the project). That social capital then becomes a catalyst for even deeper work and collective action. Newark is taking collaboration a step further by committing public dollars to continue the Love Your Block program. To ensure that philanthropic resources are aligned with the priorities of city leadership and, ultimately, the city's residents, it is also one of the few state or municipal governments in the country to have created the position of philanthropic liaison, thanks to a unique public-private partnership between city government and the local funding community under the auspices of the Council of New Jersey Grantmakers.

Cities have a unique opportunity to drive big returns on investment from small grants. A citizen-led microgrant program allows for a more accurate identification of the challenges that people in the community want to see addressed. Engaging community members in this way can create long-tail benefits such as increased social cohesion and civic engagement that can be channeled into other community needs. When these three pieces — microgrants, technical assistance, and human connections — come together, the impact is greater than the sum of its parts.

Comp_ras_baraka_myung_j_leeWith the right support networks in place, hyper-local microgrants can accelerate city leaders' efforts to not only meet the short-term needs of their communities but also strengthen the networks and relationships that drive long-term outcomes. The result? Stronger connections between citizens and municipal leaders — and stronger cities overall.

Ras J. Baraka is the mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Myung Lee is executive director of Cities of Service, a national nonprofit based in New York City.

Changing the World One Scholar at a Time: New Free Resource Launches

October 29, 2019

Today's donors and institutional philanthropists have become more ambitious in their aim to address the world's most pressing problems. How is this trend affecting the world of scholarship philanthropy? At their core, all scholarships aim to change the lives of recipients for the better. Some donors, however, have been able to leverage scholarships to impact society more broadly while improving whole institutions, industries, or communities. From increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion to creating economic opportunity in struggling communities, scholarship programs can be designed to create positive societal change that extends far beyond the individual recipient.

Earlier this month, Candid marked the launch of Scholarships for Change, a website and set of tools designed to help donors increase the impact of scholarship giving. Funded by the Ford and Mellon foundations, Scholarships for Change provides funding trend data, an interactive grants map, GrantCraft case studies, and a curated knowledge center that together serve to orient, inform, and empower donors with a road map to effective scholarship philanthropy.

Scholarships for change

Although supporting scholarships is often one of the first activities a new philanthropist undertakes, there has been no publicly available centralized source of knowledge about who has funded such programs and what they have learned. Scholarships for Change fills this gap by pulling together knowledge and data to guide funders in the practice of scholarship grantmaking and tells the story of how philanthropic dollars are supporting transformative scholarships. Scholarship seekers will benefit from the open access to insights into donor strategies that the platform provides.

Visitors to Scholarships for Change can access:

  • Information about nearly 680,000 scholarships for change made between 2006 and the present. A funding map displays aggregate trend data and scholarship-focused grants with a specific change agenda. You can use the map to identify funding concentrations and gaps as well as key actors in the field, and learn more about what the data has to say about the types of social change most frequently supported by scholarship funders.
  • Lessons learned by others, as captured in a dozen new GrantCraft case studies filled with insights from experienced scholarship funders, including the Ford Foundation, the Mastercard Foundation, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation.
  • A searchable resource center with research and news providing up-to-date access to knowledge about change-oriented scholarships.

Scholarships have the power to create greater access to education, fuel economic mobility, and lift up communities. We invite you to explore and learn from Scholarships for Change and welcome your suggestions for additions to the site.

Janet Camarena is director of transparency initiatives at Candid. Headshot_janet_camarena

The Fiduciary Responsibility and Nonprofit Boards

October 28, 2019

AR-160409948A key ingredient of success for any nonprofit is solid board governance. And that requires a blend of intellect, reputation, resources, and access — and that board members faithfully exercise their fiduciary duties.

Board directors have three primary fiduciary responsibilities: duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of impartiality. For a nonprofit to operate successfully, it's critical that board members fully understand the nuances of all three.

Best practices for a nonprofit board

When individuals agree to sit on a nonprofit board, they often do so out of a passion for the organization or its cause and may not fully understand the liability or responsibility of oversight that comes with the role. Some best board practices for nonprofits include:

Create a diverse board. Cultivating a culture of openness and inquiry is important to the effectiveness of any board. A board that includes different perspectives naturally allows for a range of ideas and opinions and allows for exploration of different approaches, which in turn benefits the organization.

Plan for sustainability. Planning doesn't just include fundraising and accounting for future dollars. Planning for sustainability means developing and putting a leadership succession plan in place to ensure the future success of the organization. Creating term limits for board members may also be important for the long-term health of an organization. The timely and planned rotation of trustees or directors on and off the board helps prevent complacency and contributes to the influx of fresh ideas.

Strike the right balance. Every nonprofit hopes to forge a strong partnership between staff and the board. And that requires striking a healthy balance between the power and responsibilities of the executive director and those of the board. The executive director should be in regular communication with the board but should also be sure to impart only meaningful information. Too much meaningless information shared with a board creates noise and distracts everyone from the organization's mission and work. By the same token, the board must be respectful of an executive director's prerogatives and avoid micromanaging the functions of the staff and day-to-day activities of the organization.

Recruit fresh talent. Attracting and retaining talent is critical for any organization that wants to succeed. The board is responsible for creating the job description and responsibilities for the executive director and ensuring that competitive compensation and benefit structures are in place for staff.

Be open to feedback. Boards should regularly solicit feedback from an organization's constituents, donors, and stakeholders to ensure that the organization remains focused and on track. Such feedback can also provide insights that the organization may be able to use during its strategic planning exercises.

Focus on transparency. It is critical to share information about what the organization is doing — and why — with donors, stakeholders, and members of the public. And that involves requires regular, planned communication.

Onboard new board members. Be sure to provide an orientation for new board members to ensure they are up to speed prior to their first board meeting. Make sure the onboarding includes the setting of clear expectations for their service on the board, education with respect to their role and the relevant bylaws, and thorough documentation of the organization's mission, values, programs, and finances.

What is a fiduciary relationship?

A fiduciary has a duty imposed by law to act solely for the benefit of another as to matters that fall within the scope of the relationship. The fiduciary standard includes undivided loyalty, prudence, and good faith and requires that the fiduciary act in the best interests of those with whom s/he has that relationship (in the case of a nonprofit board member, to the organization on whose board s/he serves). While board members act as fiduciaries for the organizations they serve, when the board itself does not possess the skills and experience to properly carry out all its fiduciary duties (e.g., the management of the organization's investments), it has a fiduciary duty to find a partner with that particular expertise. That partner — say, an investment manager — then serves as a fiduciary for the organization and its board. From the perspective of an investment partner, being held to the fiduciary standard means it must provide to the board thoroughly researched and accurate information and recommendations — and, most importantly, prioritize a client's best interests above incentives, commissions, or its own firm’s bottom line.

The fiduciary's role on a nonprofit board

Investment advisors can serve as either a strategic partner or consultant to a board that is looking to carry out its fiduciary responsibility with respect to investment oversight of the organization. In the role of strategic partner, advisors can advance the sustainability of the organization by helping the board craft a suitable investment policy statement, taking appropriate risks in the investment portfolio, and continuously monitoring performance. Investment advisors also can partner with auditors on financial reporting and serve as a resource with respect to industry best practices (even if it means going above and beyond their primary responsibilities). For example, hosting an orientation session for new board members will help them come to their first board meeting with an understanding of how the organization's portfolio is structured and give them the information they need to make informed decisions.

Nonprofit board directors have a number of key responsibilities and one of the most important ones is adhering to the fiduciary standard. It's critical that information and education be provided so that those who are involved in a leadership role of a nonprofit understand their fiduciary obligation.

Headshot_nikki_newtonNikki Newton is president of private wealth management at UMB Bank.

New Report: What Influences Young Americans to Support Social Causes

October 25, 2019

Take-actionClimate change is the number-one issue of concern among young Americans. That's one of seven major findings in the new Influencing Young America to Act 2019 report my colleagues and I released earlier today.

The second report in the Cause and Social Influence initiative I lead examines how the oldest members of Generation Z and the youngest millennials ("young America"), those Americans between the ages of 18 and 30, are influenced by and influence others to take intentional action on social issues and analyzes how those actions coalesce to form a community of support for specific social movements.

Social Issues of Interest

In our research, we define a social issue as an existing situation recognized as being counter to a generally accepted social value that can be mitigated through people working together to deploy community resources to change the situation.

The top five issues of interest to the young America (and the percentage that selected them) are climate change (30 percent), civil rights/racial discrimination (25 percent), immigration (21 percent), healthcare reform (20 percent) and mental health/social services (16 percent).

Social Movements of Interest

In our research, we define a social movement as a group of people working together to support the interests of a community whose lives are affected by a specific issue; the group often is unable to address the issue and achieve a satisfactory resolution without the support of dedicated community activists and constituents.

The top five movements of interest to young America are #MeToo (26 percent), #BlackLivesMatter (26 percent), #AllLivesMatter (24 percent), #HumanRights (24 percent ) and #MedicareForAll (23 percent). (Note that although climate change was the number-one social issue, it did not appear among the top five movements.)

Moving Young America From Awareness to Action

For me, the most fascinating findings of the study relate to a young person's journey from awareness to action. How do causes capture individuals’ interest in the first place and then move them to take the first step — and all the steps thereafter — toward support of an issue or movement? And how do causes successfully motivate followers to recruit others to support the movement?

We found that when young Americans initially learn about an issue in which they have some interest, their feelings of empowerment dramatically affect whether they continue on the awareness-to-action journey or choose to stay on the sidelines.

The most successful journeys typically involve an issue that strike a personal chord with individuals. And once young Americans learn more about an issue, most will act.

What about those who don't? Do some choose inaction out of apathy — or is something else involved?

When young Americans decide not to take action on an issue they care about, the most popular reasons they cite for not doing so are "I don't know what to do," "It's not my place," and "I can't make a difference." On the surface, these all would appear to reflect a certain apathy.

But I would argue they reveal the opposite of apathy. Few respondents in our research said they didn't care. Young Americans want to act; they just don’t know of or believe that they're capable of meaningful action.

That is the very definition of lack of empowerment.

Much of what's in the report reflects a strong sense of empowerment in young Americans. Most young people do act, and most say their actions are not prompted by someone asking them to get involved. Rather, it’s because they feel compelled — and empowered — to get involved.

The following are recommendations for how causes and nonprofits can use the findings of the new report to build support for their issue.

Recommendation #1: Take concrete steps to ensure that young Americans feel empowered by your cause or issue. Whether you're the leader of a cause or movement, a social entrepreneur, or the person responsible for social responsibility at your place of work, it's up to you to spark and/or reinforce young Americans' feelings of empowerment. You do that by regularly letting them know how they are helping to change things and by sharing stories of real people who have been helped. You also want to be sure to encourage your supporters to share with others why they are so passionate about your issue. A feeling of empowerment should power every step of the awareness-to-action journey, so keep that feedback coming.

Recommendation #2: Ask young Americans to do something to show their support. Then ask them again. When we asked research participants whether and what had prompted them to take action, they either said no one had asked them to take action or a person/organization had explicitly asked them to take action.

Is your cause or organization content to simply to "raise awareness" of your issue? Sorry, but that’s not enough for young Americans in 2019. They want to take action. They want to be told what they can do that will make a difference. It's up to you to share with them concrete opportunities to do so at every step along the awareness-to-action journey. And don’t forget to follow up, at each step of that journey, with the results of their support.

Recommendation #3: Be a positive, credible part of the online conversation around your issue. Young Americans are listening to the news media online, which means you need to be there, too. They're also all-too aware of the "fake news" phenomenon, so it's up to you to keep abreast of the conversations happening online around your issue, to share accurate information in those conversations, and to do what you can to address incorrect and inaccurate information.

Young Americans tend to trust nonprofit organizations and social movements. It's up to you to reinforce and leverage that trust by always demonstrating authenticity and credibility. As you deepen your listening, think about how you can position yourself or your organization as a subject expert (blog posts and free resources on your website are a great start). Just remember that you're a participant — one of many — in the online conversations happening around your issue and not the primary spokesperson for the issue. Keep your focus on the issue itself — and on all the things young Americans are doing to drive real change.

Influencing Young America to Act 2019 has a lot more to say about all of this. You can download it here.

Headshot_derrick_feldmann_2015Derrick Feldmann (@derrickfeldmann) is the author of Social Movements for Good: How Companies and Causes Create Viral Change, the founder of the Millennial Impact Project, and lead researcher at Cause and Social Influence.

Candid’s Regional Teams: An Update

October 22, 2019

This year has been a busy one for Candid. In February, Candid was formed as the result of a combination of Foundation Center and GuideStar. One of our most important initiatives of the year has been the transition from four Candid regional library centers to our 400+ Funding Information Network (FIN) partner locations.

Candid’s staff in the Bay Area is now all under one roof, after Foundation Center staff moved in to the existing GuideStar office in Oakland. In Atlanta, Candid’s team has partnered with CARE by moving into that organization’s Global Innovation Hub along with several other social entrepreneurs, technologists, and internationally-oriented nonprofit organizations.

Candid_training_PND

In the next two months, Candid’s Washington, D.C., team will share space in our existing office on H Street, while staff in the Cleveland area will move into Midtown TechHive, a co-working space located along Cleveland’s Health-Tech corridor.

Why is Candid transitioning its library services?

In July, I wrote about what this initiative means for the communities we serve. Our transition away from providing direct in-person library services at our four regional offices will free up our teams to engage directly with audiences beyond our four walls.

Taking our D.C. metro area location as an example: currently three of our FIN partners are located within a ten-mile radius of our current location, and all three are Metro accessible. Our D.C. team plans to offer three to five classes per month locally, at various locations, and also plans on holding monthly training events at the University of the District of Columbia. Our largest office and library in New York City will continue to operate in its current form, providing library services and trainings on-site while also delivering programs across the region.

We'll also begin experimenting with local programming close to Williamsburg, Virginia, where a large contingent of Candid team members are based. Check the local calendar on grantspace.org for upcoming community events and to use our map tool to find partners near you.

Programming highlights from our regional teams

Our regional teams have been busy planning local events and partnering with organizations on the ground to deliver relevant, meaningful programs. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Candid is currently a lead partner in “The Soul of Philanthropy” exhibition in Cleveland. The three-month traveling exhibit officially opened on Friday, September 6, with over three hundred and fifty philanthropists, foundation executives, civic and business leaders, and community members in attendance. It was a magnificent celebration dedicated to uplifting and amplifying the power of black philanthropy. This is just one of several media stories about the exhibit, and you can learn more in this blog post.
  • A one-day Training Works conference was hosted in Atlanta by Candid staff on September 20, with nearly forty attendees on-site at the CARE Global Innovation Hub.
  • Network Days, Candid’s annual convening for Funding Information Network members, was held in New York City on October 10 and 11. More than sixty partners traveled to the city to attend in person, while another hundred and sixty tuned in virtually for sessions covering such topics as Candid’s Nonprofit Start Up Assessment Tool, best practices to help nonprofits secure funding through donor-advised funds, and why it’s critical for nonprofits to earn a Seal of Transparency from GuideStar.org. We also hosted an intensive train-the-trainer event earlier in the week, guiding partners and staff through a deep capacity-building experience designed to equip them to deliver high-quality programming through a culturally responsive and human-centered lens. It was an enlightening and energizing week that showcased just how central the Funding Information Network is to Candid’s mission and to hundreds of local communities.
  • Candid staff presented a program at the end of August that explored  a California legislative proposal to regulate donor-advised funds. Ninety-four people participated in person in San Francisco, while another ninety-one tuned in to the livestream.
  • Candid also hosted its second annual program with the authors of Unicorns Unite — Vu Le, Jane Leu, and Jessamyn Shams-Lau — on September 18. The program included an in-person and livestreamed panel discussion, followed by a facilitated in-person exercise with the authors in San Francisco, plus eighteen watch parties across North America.
  • Due to popular demand, we increased our monthly course offerings of Introduction to FDO to twice a month at the San Francisco Public Library, one of our Bay Area FIN partners.
  • Working with the New York City Department of Education, Candid will present Introduction to Fundraising Planning to approximately one hundred public school art teachers at our New York library location. The sessions also will introduce teachers to Candid's library resources and provide them with hands-on experience searching Foundation Directory Online for public education and arts grants.

Whom can I contact if I have more questions?

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to any of our team members with questions or ideas:

Western region: Michele Ragland Dilworth
Northeastern region: Kim Buckner Patton
Southern region: Maria Azuri
Midwestern region: Teleangé Thomas

We are thrilled by the opportunity this new operating model presents and are looking forward to meeting with more of you across the United States. As always, you can connect with me directly to talk about how we can serve you better.

Zohra Zori is vice president of social sector outreach at Candid.

_______

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To Build More Diverse Teams, Avoid Unconscious Bias When Recruiting and Hiring

October 21, 2019

Diversity-inclusion-292x300The benefits of diversity and inclusion for nonprofit organizations are well-documented and include greater success in almost every possible metric. Often, however, nonprofit leaders and managers tend to ignore a key barrier to more meaningful workplace diversity: unconscious bias.

Research shows that bias — prejudice in favor of or against a thing, person, or group — is part and parcel of human nature. It influences all kinds of decisions, and most of us are unaware when it's a factor in those decisions. Unconscious bias is the term used to refer to judgments and decisions that are deeply affected by our unconscious mind — decisions that can play a significant role in recruiting and hiring.

Indeed, even as a growing number of nonprofit organizations say they are working to increase the diversity of their staffs, unconscious bias may be negatively impacting nonprofit workplaces by undermining efforts to recruit and retain diverse employee, contributing to poor hiring decisions and salary inequities, and denying equal opportunities in the workplace for women and people of color.

That's why it is important for your organization to recognize and mitigate unconscious bias in its recruiting and hiring processes.

Ready to get started? Here are a few tips:

Educate your team. Provide your HR team with articles, case studies, and trainings related to unconscious bias. Be sure your team knows what it is, how to recognize it, and how to avoid it.

Develop consistent, structured hiring processes. Before your organization launches its next job search, develop a list of core competencies for the job, including skills and experience, and then evaluate every candidate for the job against that list. Be sure, as well, to ask each candidate for the job the same questions to ensure that your evaluations of various candidates are impartial. To ensure that all prospects for a job are assessed against the same criteria, it’s also a good idea to have the same person interview all candidates for a job.

Consider using "blind" techniques. Blinded, or redacted, candidate materials can be effective in reducing bias in that they eliminate the possibility of making snap judgments based on details (e.g., name, address, alma mater) that may have nothing to do with whether a candidate is a good fit for a position. When such details are masked in resumes and CVs, interviewers are more likely to make decisions based on core competencies (see above) rather than personal factors. Similarly, when asking candidates to submit samples of their work, be sure to remove identifying characteristics from the documents to ensure that prospects are assessed and evaluated against a consistent set of criteria.

Expand your network. Employee referrals are often a useful tool in identifying qualified candidates. But because employees tend to refer people who are like themselves in terms of race, education, and background, such referrals can work against an organization's diversity goals. To expand your candidate pipeline — and build a more diverse workforce — task your HR team to go beyond the "usual" referral sources and proactively reach out to a range of organizations and sources.

Elevate your job descriptions. Job descriptions often end up being aligned with certain biases (unconscious or otherwise). Certain requirements (e.g., an advanced degree) will limit the candidate pool to a homogenous group of people with the same kind of experience and will make it almost impossible for you to consider a diverse range of candidates. Pay attention to the language you use in your descriptions: certain words can intimidate or be off-putting to some prospects and may discourage them from applying. You might want to consider eliminating, for example, gender-specific pronouns from your job descriptions. This can help eliminate gender bias in your recruiting processes and signal that your organization is committed to diversity and inclusion in a real and serious way.

Recognize and avoid the "halo and horn effect." This occurs when someone associates certain factors (e.g., working for a prestigious company) with particular traits (the candidate must be smart and capable). If someone on your hiring team "prefers" a candidate because s/he worked for a specific company, went to a particular school, or roots for the same sports team, it can create a "halo effect" around that candidate that puts him/her in an advantageous position with respect to other candidates. Conversely, a single negative association can create a "horn effect" resulting in a negative perception of that candidate. It's important your team looks beyond a single trait or factor and takes a more holistic view when considering candidate qualifications, factoring in a variety of data to determine which candidate is right for the job.

Be aware of affirmation bias. We tend to seek out commonalities when meeting someone new — did we attend the same school? do we live in the same neighborhood? During the recruiting and hiring process, we're more inclined to favor candidates who are "like us" and share our interests and/or beliefs. Conversely, we may not feel as strong a connection to someone who has a different background and may view them less favorably as a job candidate. If you want to increase the diversity of your staff, move away from considering only "people like us" and try to build teams comprised of people with different experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds.

Ideally, the decision to hire a candidate should be based solely on whether you think s/he will excel in the job. Unfortunately, unconscious bias often gets in the way of our conscious desire to make purely competency-based hiring decisions. The best way to combat this tendency is to recognize it and put in place hiring practices designed to promote equity, consistency, and fairness at every step of the process.

Headshot_molly_brennanMolly Brennan is founding partner at executive search firm Koya Leadership Partners, which is guided by the belief that the right person at the right place can change the world. Molly is a frequent contributor to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Philanthropy News Digest, and other publications and recently authored The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards of Directors.

5 Questions for...Bill Cummings, Co-Founder and President, Cummings Foundation

October 18, 2019

Bill Cummings thinks of himself as a serial entrepreneur. At the age of six, he would venture over to a construction site near his parents' house and sell bottles of soda. Decades later, after having worked in sales for a number of national consumer product firms, he bought his first "real" business, a century-old fruit juice syrup manufacturer, for $4,000. Five years later, he sold the company and used the seven-figure proceeds to establish Cummings Properties, which today manages more than ten million square feet of debt-free real estate in suburban Boston. Nearly all the properties are owned by and operated for the benefit of the Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, which was established by Cummings and his wife, Joyce, in 1986, with a focus on providing support for small nonprofits in the counties surrounding Boston. Much of the couple's giving over the years was done quietly and under the radar — a fact that changed when the couple decided to sign the Giving Pledge in 2011.

PND recently spoke with Cummings about his journey from entrepreneur to philanthropist, the evolution of the foundation's $100k for 100 program,  and the impact of the Giving Pledge on his thinking about and approach to philanthropy.

Bill_cummings_square_jpgPhilanthropy News Digest: Your foundation launched the $100k for 100 initiative in 2012 with the aim of providing a hundred nonprofits in the Massachusetts counties of Essex, Middlesex, and Suffolk with grants of $100,000. Did you have any models in mind when you designed the program?

Bill Cummings: No, we had nothing in mind. We had operated independently for a long time, and we had a policy of reaching out to nonprofits that weren't high profile, groups that typically found it difficult to secure foundation support. I suspect it's that way wherever you go in the U.S, and it's a shame, because there are so many small, obscure nonprofits doing marvelous things in their communities. We try to give a few of them in our neck of the woods more visibility. That was our initial goal, at any rate, and it eventually evolved into what, for several years, was known as the $100k for 100 program.

We have since combined that program with our Sustaining Grant program to create what is now a $20 million annual grantmaking program. Separately, both were extremely successful, but we came to realize we were doing two sequential programs to be included in our Sustaining Grants Program, organizations needed to have been included in one of the $100k for 100 cohorts and so we decided it would be better to streamline them. By combining them, we also eliminated the gap year that had been programmed into the Sustaining Grants effort. Under the new model we're able to provide longer-term grants of up to ten years.

PND: What do smaller, local non­profits need to do to prove to the foundation that they're able to handle what, in many cases, is likely to be the largest gift they've ever received?

BC: The $100,000 we awarded through the $100k for 100 program typically was awarded over a period of three to five years. Under the new model, if an organization has an annual budget of $50,000, we can make a big difference in their sustainability if we give them even $10,000 a year over ten years. We're talking about things like food pantries or afterschool day care. Once we know them a little better, we can then determine how much of the overall grant amount should go out at any one time. Initially, we committed to giving out $10 million a year, and it took a while for us to scale up. But now we're paying out considerably more than that.

PND: You and your wife signed the Giving Pledge in 2011. Did that have anything to do with your decision to scale up your philanthropy and be more public about it?

BC: Yes, but it didn't really change our approach or philosophy. Making one's philanthropy more public is one of the goals of the Giving Pledge, and when we joined it wasn't long before an editor at the Boston Globe called and said, "I've never heard of you. How can you be doing all this, and I never knew you existed?" Then she called the Boston Foundation to see what she could learn about us, and they hadn't heard of us, either. She was a little skeptical about us for a while, but we steered her to a few people who knew us, and she did her due diligence. At one point, I recall her saying that she was thinking of calling our foundation "The Billionaires Next Door."

By Giving Pledge standards, we're small. The Cummings Founda­tion has about $2 billion in assets, compared to, say, the more than $50 billion in assets held by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The first Giving Pledge meet­ing my wife and I attended was a strange experience for us. We looked around the room and at the sixty or so other couples who were representing different foundations and organiza­tions and pretty quickly realized we were probably the least wealthy people there.

After we visited Africa for the first time, we decided we wanted to expand our philanthropic work beyond the three counties here in Massachusetts and decided to support some things in Rwanda. It was reassuring to be able to talk to other Giving Pledgers and be told that what we had seen and learned while we were in Rwanda was accurate, and that it was a good place in which to invest philanthropically. It's that kind of access to smart people, people who have done this and are happy to have us run ideas by them, that makes the Giving Pledge so valuable .

PND: Are you looking at other opportunities in Africa, or anywhere else, for that matter?

BC: For now, we're limiting our international giving to Rwanda. But we've learned about other organizations there through members of the Giving Pledge, and we've encouraged some of them to support organizations there that we're familiar with organizations like Uni­versity of Global Health Equity, which opened its new campus in January. We're also looking at expanding our activities in Rwanda in ways that better connect them to each other. The organizations we support there really could do more working together than alone, and we've encouraged them to apply to us for joint grants. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is one example.

PND: This is a moment of pretty intense political polarization in the United States. Do you have any thoughts about where we are as a country and how we got here? And are you optimistic about the future?

BC: I wish I were more optimistic than I actually am. In general, I'm an optimist, but I'm beside myself with some of the things I see going on in Washington these days. In our company and our foundation, we have always worked to build trust and accountability. Sadly, our country has a chief executive who openly talks about how one can profit from bankruptcy and how it's easy to cheat people. That's not good; that's discouraging. But I'm hopeful we will get beyond that.

I've been traveling a lot over the past year to promote my book. And that has led to some interesting opportunities. For instance, we worked with Harvard Business School recently on a Cummings Properties case study. I applied to the business school as a 21-year-old just out of Tufts and was effectively rejected and told to reapply in two years. So it's great fun, as you might imagine, to have a case being studied at Harvard.

Recently, I gave a book talk to a thousand people in Rwanda. I didn't sell a lot of books, but I was able to give audience members free access to a copy of it on the Internet. I also spoke at the Saïd School of Business at Oxford University and to another eight hundred people at the University of Alabama. Giving a talk like that is a lot of fun, and it helps to promote philanthropy. It's been an interesting sidebar to my career. Yes, the runway is getting shorter, but I don't see any reason to stop looking forward.

Matt Sinclair

How to Ensure Your Data Science Is Inclusive

October 16, 2019

Tanzania-citizen-priorities-767The potential of data science to support, measure, and amplify sustainable development is undeniable. And as public, private, and civic institutions around the world come to recognize the role that data science can play in advancing growth, an increasingly robust array of efforts aimed at fostering data science in lower-income countries has emerged.

This phenomenon is particularly salient in sub-Saharan Africa, where foundations are investing millions in building data literacy and data science skills; multilaterals and national governments are pioneering new investments in data science, artificial intelligence, and smart cities; private and public donors are investing in data science centers and local data science talent; and local universities are launching graduate-level data science courses.

Despite this progress (and the attendant hype) lurks an inconvenient truth: As a new generation of data scientists emerges in Africa, there is relatively little trusted, accurate, and accessible data available to them.

We often hear how data science can be used to help teachers tailor curricula according to student performance, but the fact remains that many school systems on the continent don't collect or track performance data with enough accuracy and timeliness to perform data science–enabled tweaks. Many firmly believe that data science can help us identify disease outbreaks early, but healthcare facilities often lack the patient data and digital capabilities needed to surface those clues.

Fundamental data gaps like these invite a question: Precisely what data do data scientists need to advance sustainable development?

There are, of course, compelling examples of data science being put to use for the public good. Emerging use cases include exploring call detail records to improve mobility and urban planning, using remote sensors to measure agricultural or economic growth, and mining online content to monitor election violence. These and other examples prove beyond a doubt that data science has a role to play in advancing sustainable development.

But obtaining call detail records requires time, money, and (often) political connections. Online content (like tweets) typically reflects the views of the relatively small number of people in lower-income countries who have Internet access and avail themselves of social media platforms. Even though we're working hard to make data science accessible to everyone, data scientists are left to work with information that remains either inaccessible to most technologists or is unrepresentative of the most marginalized populations.

The lack of good data has consequences. As leaders and influencers increasingly rely on data science to guide their decision-making, they risk making decisions that ignore the needs, perspectives, and values of the people they serve who are not online (more than half the world's population), or who don’t use a mobile device (which are used more by men than by women).

They also risk disenfranchising a new generation of African data scientists who lack the financial resources to access large and reliable datasets, or who have to watch as better-funded organizations an ocean away — for example, universities in the Global North — conduct data science and analytics focused on their communities.

The good news? There are steps we can take that will help data science achieve its full potential in the realm of sustainable development. Here are three:

1. Be wary of encouraging a generation of data scientists who must rely on expensive, hard-to-access data in order to meaningfully apply their skills. We should couple our data science training with efforts that build data collection skills through methods such as community mapping or data-sharing initiatives like data collaboratives.

2. Be conscious of the risk of reinforcing dependencies on companies whose technologies, platforms, and datasets comprise the bulk of data science case studies. We should intentionally pair our investments in data science with investments in indigenous innovations that produce data for data science. Low-cost, locally-built technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and initiatives that produce locally relevant training datasets can help mitigate such dependencies.

3. Be mindful of focusing too much on data science and not enough on data literacy. We should double down on building fundamental data skills — collecting, cleaning, analyzing, sharing — within health clinics, schools, and local government agencies, where so much valuable information is actually produced. Doing so will improve the availability and reliability of large datasets for use by homegrown data scientists.

Fortunately, momentum is beginning to shift in favor of indigenous data science. Entrepreneurs are rolling out innovations designed to address language gaps. Initiatives such as Data Science Africa and Deep Learning Indaba are nurturing communities of machine-learning experts. These are steps in the right direction.

Five years from now, a new generation of socially-conscious impact-driven African data scientists will have emerged, and many of them will be driven to use their skills to address sustainable development challenges. We must ensure that the information that powers their efforts isn't limited to expensive, inaccessible, or unrepresentative data that sits primarily in the hands of a few mobile operators, banks, or tech companies.

Getting there means complementing the hype of data science for global good with the long, difficult work of improving data quality at the local level, investing in indigenous technology and content, and investing in fundamental data skills. Only then will the data science revolution be primed to achieve its full potential.

Samhir Vasdev is an advisor for digital development at IREX's Center for Applied Learning and Impact. A version of this post originally appeared on the IREX website.

This Is America

October 15, 2019

America and MomAmerica, my youngest cousin, started college in August. She is the daughter of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States with hopes of building a new life, a life better than the one offered by their home country, Mexico. America was born in the U.S. and is a dedicated student. She has committed herself to studying hard because she wants to fulfill her dreams and her parents' dreams — dreams for which they have sacrificed much. By graduating from high school, America is one step closer to her dream. This is her story, but it's also the story of hundreds of thousands of low-income first-generation students of color who dream of success and fight against odds and unfamiliar systems to keep their dream (and their families' dreams) alive.

For many students like America, the path to a college degree is difficult. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, state funding for higher education has declined as a share of the budget over the past four decades while tuition has tripled at both the UC and CSU systems over the past twenty years. A 2018 study by the Institute for Higher Education Leadership & Policy at Cal State Sacramento found that a large majority of community college students fail to obtain a degree or transfer to a four-year institution. The same study found large disparities between minority and Caucasian students, with only 26 percent of African-American students and 22 percent of Latino students earning a degree or certification or successfully transferring to a four-year university within six years. That's compared to 37 percent of Caucasian students. In 2018, the CSU system reported that only 25 percent of first-time freshmen finished in four years, while only 38 percent of transfer students attained their degree in two years. Although California spends more on financial aid per Pell Grant recipient than any other state, it's clear that more needs to be done to assist the 48 percent of students who identify as students of color and the 41 percent who are first-generation college-goers. Simply put, they face more barriers to college completion than other students. Indeed, according to CSU's 2018 Basic Needs Study, students who identified as black/African-American and as the first in their families to attend college experienced the highest rates of food insecurity (65.9 percent) and homelessness (18 percent) of any group. All these students, like America, deserve a level playing field and a fair shot at success.

East Los Angeles

America is a hopeful teenager who aspires to become a lawyer. She graduated from my alma mater, James A Garfield High School in East L.A. Think El Mercadito, Oscar de la Hoya, Whittier Boulevard. Think Stand and Deliver, the story of Jaime Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos in the movie). Yeah, that East L.A. and that Garfield High School. That's the environment in which America grew up.

East L.A. is an amazing community, but it faces many challenges, including a more than 22 percent poverty rate, nearly double the national average. It also struggles with low educational attainment, with only 8.3 percent of the population holding a bachelor's degree or higher. Forty-three percent of the population possess no degree at all. The neighborhood is also plagued by gangs and gang-related violence. My niece is living proof, however, that East L.A. is still a place where resilience and persistence can lead to success and the American dream.

America's Family and the Challenges of Financial Aid

After spending her childhood and teen years in East L.A., America was accepted at UC Merced. While not her first choice, the school offered the best financial aid package. Neither her mom nor dad received high school diplomas, and when America was applying to colleges they struggled to navigate a system they were not familiar with. Despite the challenges, all the necessary financial aid documents were completed and submitted.

America's financial aid package included $5,500 in loans. Of that, America and her parents decided to accept only $1,000, opting to figure out how to source the remaining $4,500 on their own. Although $5,500 might seem affordable, it's only a best-guess as to what is needed for the first year, and no one knows whether the amount will change in year two, three, or four. In addition, $5,000 of America's financial aid package was tied to work study. If she chose not to work, then the $4,500 already picked up by her family would balloon to $9,500. America's family's annual income is $30,000. And it gets more complicated when you consider that America's parents also pay $2,000 a year for her older sister to attend East Los Angeles College.

In her book Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and The Betrayal of the American Dream, Sara Goldrick-Rab examines the conundrum faced by first-generation college students who apply for financial aid. In the book, Goldrick-Rab details a study conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab that asked 1,110 students how long it took them to complete financial aid paperwork. Almost a third (29 percent) said it took them one to two hours to complete, while 20 percent said it required more than two hours, with one in three of those students saying the person who helped them complete the paperwork had not attended college. Such was the case for America. "Si, un monton de papeleo, nunca en mi vida me habian pedido tanto papeleo," America's mom told me. ("Never in my life have I been asked for so many documents.")

Fulfillment of a Dream

In July, America excitedly told her parents that UC Merced had invited her to a new student orientation. Her parents were quick to ask why it cost $100 per person to attend. They asked me, her cousin, to go with them because, as America's dad said, "Pues es que no conocemos por alla," ("We're unfamiliar with stuff over there.") I gladly accepted and headed out with them on a Friday afternoon for the Saturday session. The trip came at an opportune time. As a program officer at the Michelson 20MM Foundation, I work on issues of access, success, and affordability for underrepresented college students, with a focus on students struggling with basic needs

When we finally got to Merced, America and her parents were bright eyed, taking in a new landscape and imagining how America soon would be making it her home. They were excited for her and glad for the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the drive, knowing they would be coming up to bring their daughter home for the holidays and other occasions. America gently reminded them she only planned to come home twice a year. I didn't attend the orientation, as I figured it would be good for America and her parents to experience the day on their own.

When I picked them up, they were beaming with optimism and ready to share everything they had learned. Like any good recap at a gathering of Mexicans, they started by describing the food. But the question they were most interested in hearing an answer to was whether UC Merced took attendance and whether the school would notify parents if their daughter stopped attending classes. They knew America was bound to grow increasingly independent, but they also felt it would be good policy for UC Merced to communicate with parents in such situations. America laughed — not out of frustration but in appreciation of her parent's "old schoolness" and the love they were demonstrating by readily accepting things they didn't fully understand but knew would be good for her.

America started UC Merced last month and is beyond excited. She embraces her status as an underdog and relishes the challenge. More than anything, she does so because she's seen her parents beat the odds to give her the opportunity. If you drive through East L.A. today, you'll see eight-foot-high banners on lampposts lining major thoroughfares like Atlantic Boulevard. In 2016, Garfield H.S., in partnership with local businesses, educational organizations, and elected officials, obtained permits to display pictures of Garfield graduates holding the pennants and wearing the sweaters of the colleges they were leaving home to attend. At the top of each banner it reads "Garfield is college bound," while across the bottom it says "The pride of East L.A." America is on one of those banners, and her parents could not be prouder.

In the months and years to come, America and her family, like many other first-generation low-income students of color and their families, will navigate unfamiliar new systems together, tread new paths together, laugh at what they don't understand together, and most likely cry whenever they are not together. For now, they happily cling to their recent victory, America's high school graduation and the memory of their embrace after America walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

What's in a hug for America's parents at graduation? Sighs of relief after years of sacrifice. Memories of a border crossing filled with fear that led to an indescribable moment of joy. The fulfillment of a dream that first took shape in a small town in Mexico, thousands of miles away, and seemingly thousands of years ago. The satisfaction of knowing that waking up at 4:00 a.m. every day, day after day, to work a low-paying job was worth it. The satisfaction of knowing that in four years, despite the challenges, "primeramente Dios," ("God willing"), they'll be waking up at 4:00 a.m. to drive up the 99 freeway to see their daughter walk across another stage.

Miguel_leon_for_PhilanTopicMiguel León is a program officer at the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

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